Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have found parts produced by some commercial 3D printers are toxic to certain fish embryos. The results raise questions about the impact the materials have on humans and how to dispose of parts and waste materials from the printers.
The researchers examined two common types of 3D printers: one that melts plastic (a Stratasys Dimension Elite) and one that turns a liquid into a solid part using light (a Formlabs Form 1+). Parts from both 3D printers were found to be toxic to the zebrafish embryos, but the Formlabs liquid-based 3D printer was most toxic.
The two test printers created plastic disks (1 inch in diameter) that were placed in petri dishes containing zebrafish embryos. According to the study, more than half the embryos died within three days and all were dead within one week. Not only did it kill off the existing embryos, but 100 percent of those that hatched exhibited developmental abnormalities.
“Many people, including myself, are excited about 3D printing,” says UCR assistant professor William Grover, who worked on the study. “But, we really need to take a step back and ask how safe are these materials?”.
The study also examined ways to lower the toxicity of the liquid resin parts. One way to significantly reduce the toxicity, they discovered, was to expose the parts to ultraviolet light for one hour. It was so successful UCR filed for a patent.
Other unanswered questions include how to dispose of the waste material – both solid and liquid – created by 3D printers. The researchers currently think it is best to take it to a hazardous waste center.
[Source:] University of California, Riverside