Using a computer-generated image, a 3D printer heats and melts the feed material, placing layers of filament on top of one another to form a precise 3D replica of the image.

EHS Operating Safety Requirements

  • Notify EHS when interested in purchasing a commercial printer for research and complete questionnaire.
  • Always follow manufacturer instructions for installation and use.
  • Complete trainings offered by EHS. If you need any training tailored specifically for your process, please contact the EHS Lab and Chemical Safety Officer to set up an assessment.
  • Consult Safety Data Sheet(s) and/or EHS to determine specific safety precautions and handling of materials.
  • Consult the 3D printer manual to be sure you are using the proper feedstock.
  • Review Safety Data Sheets for feedstock materials before using.
  • Double check what vapors or gases are generated when heating.
  • Use appropriate personal protective equipment when using the 3D printer which includes but is not limited to gloves, lab coats, safety goggles, and Tyvek suits. If you need resources on the level of appropriateness for your process, contact EHS.
  • While in operation, do not tamper with or override interlock switch. If the switch fails, do not use the printer.
  • Absolutely no food or drink in the lab space.


Please visit our training website. If you are not sure which courses are necessary or relevant, please use our training tool. At a minimum, completion of Right to Know and Lab Safety 101 are required prior to operating the 3D printer.

Installation and Maintenance

  • All 3D printers should be installed and maintained according to the manufacturer guidelines.
  • The manufacturer (as well as EHS) should be consulted for appropriate ventilation requirements.
  • All printers should be operated by the person who has received process specific training by the manufacturer.
  • If there are special requirements (ventilation, space, access, signage, etc.), please notify Facilities Management and EHS for support.
  • Keep EHS, building manager, and other pertinent personnel up-to-date on the timeline.

Other Potential Safety Concerns

  • Hot surfaces - print head block and UV lamp
  • Hight voltage - UV lamp connector, electric outlet safety certified and ground wire
  • Ultraviolet radiation - UV lamp. Don't look at the lamp; make sure the UV screen is intact.
  • Moving parts - print assembly
  • Hazardous chemicals - proper handling, segregation, and storage
  • Nanoparticles - toxicity can target organ systems


3D printing was introduced around the 1980s and has been catapulted into a revolutionary engineering process for making objects and prototyping.

Also known as additive manufacturing technology, 3D printing has made manufacturing easier and more accessible. 3D printers can range from rapid prototyping to professional prototyping, with costs running from $1000 to $50000. Various environmental and health hazards are associated with this process dependent upon the type of process. One of the most popular 3D printing processes include the use of thermoplastics, which are heated and dispersed onto a surface emitting nanoparticles.

Nanoparticle safety is important because nanoparticles are small, their toxicity can target organ systems. In addition to toxicity, there are respiratory hazards that can cause adverse health effects. Deciding to work with this kind of technology can be dangerous if the proper safety measures are not considered prior to operating with these materials.


Each 3D printer is designed to use certain types of materials. The most common type of desktop 3D printer technology joins thin strands, or filaments, made of ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) or compostable materials, such as PLA, a biodegradable thermoplastic aliphatic polyester derived from corn starch tapioca. The materials being fed into the machine (feedstock) can be hazardous. For example, processes may release vapors and gases that elevate their level of hazard after they are heated during the 3D printing process.

Processes and Technologies

There are several ways to print and all those available are additive, differing mainly in the way layers are built to create the final object.The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTMF42 – Additive Manufacturing) set standards that 3D printer processes falls into one of seven categories. Listed below are the seven categories with brief descriptions.


Modeling and Printing Materials