Customer concerns about 3D printing fumes – SLA, too

Responding to questions from customers about fumes produced by their 3D printers can be frustrating.

Typically, the customer offers an SDS [previously called a Material Safety Data Sheet] and asks for assistance in interpreting it.

As you know, individual components in fumes may require specific types of filtration in order to capture them before they can be inhaled.

Each chemical’s SDS should identify any hazards associated with the chemical, including respiratory hazards.

Then what happens?

So one of our applications specialists takes a look at the Data Sheet and finds:

1. Despite GHS requirements, the document is old and incomplete.


2. The ‘data sheet’ proffered is not a Safety Data Sheet and looks more like a brochure.


3. The SDS’ Section 3, Composition/information on ingredients, simply says, Proprietary.

We encounter this often in our SLA 3D printing research.

SLA 3D printing

Stereo lithography [SLA] printing is a form of 3D printing that uses lasers and liquid polymers that react to light.

SLA does not melt a solid polymer filament in order to print it.

Rather, SLA methods use a laser to cause light-sensitive liquid polymer to harden and build the final object one layer at a time.


Online photos of SLA printers show vats of varied sizes containing liquid polymer.

No lids on those vats, although some printer models have cabinets that enclose the vat and laser as the laser fires into it.

Any fumes trapped inside the cabinet during printing would be released when the lid is opened to retrieve the final printed object.

We want to know: What pulls hazardous chemical fumes away from the operator?

Cleaning a SLA object involves chemicals, too

SLA proponents like the process because of its accuracy. Turns out, its best appearance requires a little cleaning.

We found online recommendations to use tripropylene glycol [mono] methyl ether; isopropyl alcohol; an unnamed “chemical bath;” or a solution with caustic soda [lye; sodium hydroxide].

Do you think your lungs appreciate this doubling down on fumes? Do you think there are studies that indicate specific combinations of fumes are harmless for someone your age, your gender? Because there aren’t.

3D printing technologies are new, evolving & OSHA exposure limits are 40 years old

PEL is an acronym for Permissible Exposure Limits, the acceptable amount of a substance in the air, a form of protection from hazardous chemicals.

“The intent of PELs is to protect workers from the health effects of hazardous chemicals.

“Unfortunately, most of our PELS were adopted more than 40 years ago and new scientific data, industrial experience and developments in technology clearly indicate that, in many instances, these mandatory limits are not sufficiently protective of worker health.”

Dr. David Michaels
US Department of Labor

OSHA has published annotated PEL tables that include more up-to-date recommendations by a non-profit association of industrial hygienists and the state of California’s industrial relations department, also known as CAL/OSHA.

In some cases, newer PELs are big reductions of the older PELs.

For example, one 3D SLA printer manufacturer uses a light-sensitive polymer they identify as “methacrylic ester monomers”.

Methacrylic ester monomers are also known as methacrylate monomers and methyl methacrylate.

OSHA’s 40-year-old PEL is 100 ppm, or 100 parts of methyl methacrylate to 1 million parts of air.

The PEL recommended by both CAL/OSHA and professional industrial hygienists is 50 ppm, or 50 parts of methyl methacrylate to 1 million parts of air

See the difference? Do you think your lungs might know the difference?

Exposure to hazardous substances is not a joke

We want you to think about your future.

Certainly, 3D printing is predicted to have a big impact on the futures of manufacturing, from big companies to one-person shops.

Today’s eleven-year-olds may be working around and with 3D printing from childhood through the span of their professional lives.

Protect your lungs from disease that starts with dirty air you breathe today, even though you may not feel the impact until years into the future.

Project yourself into the future, protect you lungs today.

Globally Harmonized System (GHS)

3D Printing Processes

New 3-D Printers that Don’t Suck

How Stereolithography (SLA) Works

A Guide to The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling Chemicals (GHS)

ProtoGen 18420, liquid ABS-like photopolymer

Super quick cleaning method for resin prints

OSHA Releases New Resources to Help Employers Protect Workers from Hazardous Chemicals

No fume extraction port for your 3D printer? We offer ideas and solutions.

There’s more than one way to capture the particles produced by 3D printers.

Put the printer in a hood

A customer decided that the most appropriate solution for his situation was the one shown in the conceptual image below: a MakerBot Replicator in a Model 330 Ductless Containment Hood.

3D printer inside a Sentry Air Model 330 Ductless Containment Hood.

Each side wall of the hood has an opening for the printer’s power cord.

This hood is lightweight and easily re-located because it is not physically restricted to the location of permanent ductwork.

This kind of flexibility is good for growing organizations.

Alternate between applications?

Perhaps you can alternate use of the hood between applications.

For example, do your 3D printing  a few days a week, then remove the printer and put your laser pen set up in the hood for engraving tasks.

The correct filtration set will trap both particles and fumes produced by both applications. Now that’s efficiency.

Work closely with your Sentry Air applications specialist to identify the correct filtration set.

Create an exhaust port

For situations where a ductless fume hood won’t work, consider making a fume exhaust for your 3D printer to connect to your fume extractor.

In a three-part tutorial, the local children’s museum Maker Annex guru documented how he used the space’s tools to add a fume exhaust port to a MakerBot Replicator.

He used a laser cutter, a rivet tool, and a collar, a standard component of many of our fume extractors.

Sentry Air fume extractor hose connected to the Maker Bot 3D printer.

Via the newly created fume exhaust port, the flex hose connects the printer to a Model 300 Portable Fume Extractor.

At the Maker Annex, they alternate 3D printing with laser cutting.

Sentry Air's Model 300 Portable Fume Extractor with a python hose.

Model 300 Portable Fume Extractor with a python hose.

They placed the Model 300 near both the laser cutter and the 3D printer.

To prevent fumes from spreading through the space, they attach the flexible hose to the tool that will be in operation.

We’ve posted a blog about their excellent set-up for maker kids.





UPDATED May 2014. Visit our 3D Printing Fume Extraction page on our website. 

Contact us

If you’re planning a 3D printing capability, and you’re concerned about how to handle fumes and particles, please contact us.

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