Tag Archives: ABS

Study Shows 3D Printing Emits Ultrafine Particles; What This Actually Means

3D Printer Ultrafine Particle Emissions

Should You Use Your 3D Printer Indoors? Study Asks, We Explain

A recent study published in the journal Atmospheric Environment shows evidence that desktop 3D printers emit ultrafine particles (UFP) to a degree that should cause concern, if you operate your 3D printer in a telephone booth.

The report focuses on emissions by FDM (fused deposition modeling) printers that use ABS or PLA material, a configuration used by MakerBot and other popular desktop 3D printer companies.

Ultrafine particles are small particles, technically on the nanoscale, that can be inhaled and cause health effects ranging from innocuous to major, including lung disease.

The report claims that observed emissions of UFPs from desktop 3D printers were significant and therefore caution should be used when operating in a unventilated area.

Estimates of emission rates of total UFPs were large, ranging from ∼2.0 × 1010 # min−1 for a 3D printer utilizing a polylactic acid (PLA) feedstock to ∼1.9 × 1011 # min−1 for the same type of 3D printer utilizing a higher temperature acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) thermoplastic feedstock. Because most of these devices are currently sold as standalone devices without any exhaust ventilation or filtration accessories, results herein suggest caution should be used when operating in inadequately ventilated or unfiltered indoor environments.

At first glance, this sounds like a big problem for 3D printing, an industry in rapid growth and adoption. But the reality is that the level of emission observed is similar to that of laser printers, candles, and cooking on a stove at home – all activities consumers are not going to give up any time soon.

The same 3D printer utilizing a higher temperature ABS feedstock had an emission rate estimate (1.8–2.0 × 1011 # min−1) similar to that reported during grilling food on gas or electric stoves at low power (1.2–2.9 × 1011 # min−1), but approximately an order of magnitude lower than gas or electric stoves operating at high power (1.2–3.4 × 1012 # min−1). Regardless, the desktop 3D printers measured herein can all be classified as “high emitters” with UFP emission rates greater than 1010 particles per min, according to criteria set forth in He et al. (2007).

In summary, don’t use your 3D printer in a dark corner of your basement without opening the window.

Embedded is the full report.

CC image by pennstatenews


IndieGoGo Campaign The Touch-Up Promises to Smooth 3D Printing

The Touch-Up 3D Printing

Crowdfunding Campaign to End Manual Polishing for 3D Printing

One of the less publicized aspects of 3D printing, specifically FDM, is the tedious work required after you press “print” with your MakerBot, Printrbot, Ultimaker, or any other 3D printer. Every 3D printer has a defined resolution, which is the thickness of each layer. Typical desktop 3D printers have a resolution of around 100 to 200 microns. The result looks like the image below, visible horizontal lines in the finished product.


To smooth out these lines, advanced 3D printing enthusiasts typically use a sanding technique followed by polishing. Remember, with many desktop 3D printers, the material used is ABS plastic. It is soft enough to smooth out, but requires this manual effort.

Introducing The Touch-Up

3D Customization Co. has developed a product that employs a new technique for smoothing and finishing 3D prints without the manual effort. The product is called The Touch-Up, and 3D Customization Co. has launched an IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign to raise $5,000.

We interviewed CEO Westley Harrell about The Touch-Up.

On 3D Printing: What is The Touch-Up?

Westley Harrell: The Touch-Up is a product used to smooth and polish rough edges due to the 3D Printing process. Achieve amazing results using various print layers. Imagine a finish you can see yourself in! Literally! Stop wasting time hand sanding and hand polishing your 3D printed ABS models. Let The Touch-Up do it for you! This product allows you to get professional looking models faster by letting The Touch-Up smooth your print for you while another model prints. We found that when using MakerBot’s ABS filament, we were able to get faster polishing times with a great overall consistency with each model polished. (Same filament used in our video and pictures)

I used to spend a lot of time finishing my models after they were printed to get a really clean and smooth surface. I tried different techniques from spray enamel to dipping the part in different chemicals. It took months until I figured out the best method for polishing 3D printed ABS models. That was to submerse the ABS model in Acetone vapor. From that came the idea of vapor sanding and The Touch-Up was conceived.

Anyone who uses ABS to 3D Print will find The Touch-Up a great addition to their 3D Printing Arsenal. We made it easy to use and easy to clean so anyone who 3D Prints could use it.

On 3D Printing: Why are you turning to IndieGoGo for funding?

Westley Harrell: We chose IndieGoGo because we wanted to make The Touch-Up available to anyone, anywhere. This campaign also helps provide funding for upgrades and will help us move forward with this product. Also through this 30-day campaign we will be able to identify the need for this product, and determine how much time should be invested in bringing this product forward to consumers in the future. This is just the first project we are bringing to the public. We want to identify which product is in the highest demand.

Origins of Acetone Vapor Bath in the Maker Community

While The Touch-Up is the first commercialized product to use an acetone vapor bath, the origins of this technique look to be from the Maker community. In February 2013, Austin Wilson posted on his blog about a new technique that he and his friend Neil Underwood were developing to polish 3D printed objects using acetone vapor baths.

Neil also posted his results on the RepRap blog. Neil explained his inspiration:

Treating ABS parts with acetone is almost as old as RepRap itself, but usually this has involved either dipping the part into liquid acetone, which causes white streaks in the parts, or brushing the acetone onto the part with a slurry mix, which can work very well but tends to be a messy process.

I have seen several setups out there, one by the Solidoodle Folks that involved a deep fryer, ice, tubing, and a candy thermometer, or completely passive systems that just used unheated acetone like TBuser of Makerbot did.

Unlike the other experiments, Neil and Austin heated the acetone in a closed chamber. The results were impressive.

Neil Underwood 3D Printing Acetone Vapor Bath

In March, Wired magazine published a feature about Neil and Austin and their vapor bath technique. With the additional exposure of their approach came a new caveat:

Anyone interested in trying this should take care. Wilson says points out that acetone isn’t especially dangerous, but it has to be handled carefully since the vapor can catch fire if exposed to sparks or flames.

If you like this idea and want to help fund the first commercial product to use acetone vapor baths to polish 3D printed objects, go check out The Touch-Up at IndieGoGo.

3D Printed Car Urbee 2 Announced: Light, Aerodynamic, and Custom Made

3D Printed Car Urbee

Last June, we featured Urbee, the first 3D printed car. Optimized for renewable energy, this novel design promises 200 miles per gallon. Details about the next generation design, called Urbee 2, are now coming to light as the car nears production.

It has a metal chassis but a plastic frame, 3 wheels and weighs only 1,200 pounds. And nearly everything is made through 3D printing.

Jim Kor, head of Kor Ecologic, talks about the process of designing the Urbee series in the video below.

In an interview with Kor, Wired also shares new details about the new 3D printed car.

“We thought long and hard about doing a second one,” [Kor] says of the Urbee. “It’s been the right move.”

Kor and his team built the three-wheel, two-passenger vehicle at RedEye, an on-demand 3-D printing facility. The printers he uses create ABS plastic via Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). The whole car – which is about 10 feet long – takes about 2,500 hours [to produce].

Besides easy reproduction, making the car body via FDM affords Kor the precise control that would be impossible with sheet metal. The current model has a curb weight of just 1,200 pounds.

Kor used the design freedom of 3D printing to combine a typical car’s multitude of parts into simple unibody shapes. For example, when he prints the car’s dashboard, he’ll make it with the ducts already attached without the need for joints and connecting parts. What would be dozens of pieces of plastic and metal end up being one piece of 3D printed plastic.

“The thesis we’re following is to take small parts from a big car and make them single large pieces,” Kor says. By using one piece instead of many, the car loses weight and gets reduced rolling resistance, and with fewer spaces between parts, the Urbee ends up being exceptionally aerodynamic.” How aerodynamic? The Urbee 2′s teardrop shape gives it just a 0.15 coefficient of drag.

More from Wired.


Can 3D printing revolutionize the car industry?

3D Printing Pen 3Doodler Raises $1.8M on Kickstarter from 20K Backers

3Doodler Kickstarter 3D Printing

Another 3D printing project has launched on crowdfunding site Kickstarter and blown away its funding goals.

3Doodler is a 3D printing pen that let’s you draw real objects in mid-air. Looking to raise $30,000 on Kickstarter, the project has already passed $1.8 million in funding from over 20,000 backers!

3Doodler is the world’s first and only 3D Printing Pen. Using ABS plastic (the material used by many 3D printers), 3Doodler draws in the air or on surfaces. It’s compact and easy to use, and requires no software or computers. You just plug it into a power socket and can start drawing anything within minutes.

Below is the video about the project. You still have 26 days to participate in their funding.

Make: Where Do We Really Stand On 3D Printing?

Make Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing

Make magazine has published an extensive opinion piece about 3D printing as part of its 3D Thursday series. The article is called 3D Printing Revolution: the Complex Reality.

The main thesis of the post is that while 3D printers are becoming increasingly popular, the reality might not match the hype. For one, designing for manufacturability is hard – from CAD software to industrial design techniques. Another issue is the durability and precision of materials used in 3D printing, such as ABS plastic, may not be engineering-grade.

Concluding, the author states:

One day, a silver bullet solution may materialize; if it does, it will be probably nothing like any of the existing technologies we are experimenting with. Until then, it pays to focus on the process, not on this week’s most-hyped tool.

These points are valid and one has to acknowledge that 3D printing won’t replace all manufacturing processes overnight. But look at the applications that are already commercial, from medical and dentistry to fashion to toys and games. Expect more to follow quickly with the rapid pace of innovation in 3D printing!