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HSE Report Raises Concerns Over 3D Printer Safety In Schools
Leeds-based Kora 3D, one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of desktop 3D printers, has developed a unique universal safety cabinet to protect 3D printer users, following the release of a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report today which found that the printers can create harmful emissions, potentially endangering staff and pupils.
The use of Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) and Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) 3D printers as part of the school curriculum has grown rapidly in recent years following a Department for Education funded pilot in 2012/13 to explore how 3D printing could be applied to the Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum. However, concerns have consistently been raised over the safe use of the products and their impact on surrounding air quality.
CLEAPSS (the Consortium of Local Education Authorities for the Provision of Science Services), an advisory service supporting science and technology in schools, manages a helpline for schools and has been inundated with concerns from teaching staff and requests for a model risk assessment for the use of FFF/FDM style 3D printers and guidance around safe usage.
In response, the HSE formed a working group including HSE scientific and regulatory staff, Kora 3D, CLEAPSS and the British Standards Institute to identify the risks and develop a good practice guide for the safe use of FFF/FDM style desktop 3D printers in schools.
Kora 3D committed to working with the HSE to eradicate these risks, making the commitment to suspend sales of its own FFF/FDM style 3D printers until the research was complete.
The HSE has now released its report Measuring and Controlling Emissions from Desktop 3D Printers which found that the 3D printers emitted many particles of a size range that could potentially enter the airways and lungs. The report also found that ‘emissions from FFF 3D printers are likely to be released into the general environment because many desktop printers have no form of control or particle capture.’
Worryingly, the HSE’s research also found that some of the plastic filament materials used in the 3D printers were found to release vapours known to be hazardous to health when heated. During testing, the HSE found that placing the desktop 3D printer inside a Kora 3D enclosing hood with filtered ventilation reduced particle emission rates by 97 per cent. As a result, the new guidance from CLEAPSS for teachers recommends the use of a ‘bespoke exposure control cabinet to cover each printer.’
In line with the recommendations from the HSE, Kora 3D’s talented team of engineers have developed the universal and economical Kora SC-01 Safety Cabinet, designed to fit most standard sized FFF/FDM style desktop 3D printers. It uses a specialist filter cartridge at the top of the cabinet to draw clean air from the area in which it is situated and to remove potentially harmful emissions. The SC-01 is, to date, the only FFF/FDM style 3D Printer Safety Cabinet to have been officially tested by the HSE’s specialist Health and Safety Laboratory.
To provide further protection for users, Kora has also put in place a registration process which tracks the product, its specialist filters and its usage using unique serial numbers logged on both the product, instruction manual and all subsequent documentation.
Dave Parry, Design & Technology Lead Adviser at CLEAPSS, said: “With 3D printing being encouraged as part of the curriculum, teachers and pupils are using 3D printers on a regular basis, so we’re pleased to see the introduction of fully integrated extraction systems that trap potentially harmful fumes and particulates to prevent exposure to users. The use of an extracted cabinet also restricts access to the machine, thereby controlling the risk of trapping or burning that may arise.”
Steve Burrows, Managing Director of Kora 3D, said: “It’s clear that FFF/FDM style 3D printing is a growing sector and one which offers fantastic benefits in the education environment. However, our four-year study alongside the HSE has confirmed the importance of having a greater understanding of the equipment and the need to pay more attention to safety management. It was a huge commitment and a risky commercial decision to cease sales of our FFF/FDM style 3D printers. However, we strongly believed that although FFF/FDM style 3D printing delivers huge benefits, not enough had been done until now to investigate the potential risk to users and bystanders. Operating in the education sector meant that the safety of our end users – children – had to be of primary concern.
“At the heart of Kora 3D is a real passion for problem solving, so our talented team has worked closely with the HSE to develop a product which finally makes FFF/FDM style 3D printing safe. As the only company currently with an HSE/HSL tested product, we believe we are now in a very strong commercial position to ambitiously grow our business.”
A link to the guidance by CLEAPSS for the safe usage of 3D printers in schools can be found here: CLEAPSS 3D Printer report
Link to HSE report: http://www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrpdf/rr1146.pdf