Safe-ish materials for indoor printing (that also doesn't smell)

Hi guys

I found an existing thread but it was hard to draw conclusions from it so I’ll try a new one. My objective is to make a simplified chart of materials for indoor printing with marginal ventilation (essentially meaning stock printer and a normal living area). And to me there is not only the question of “toxic” but also “smelly”. If it’s 100% safe but smells like a burning corpse, I’m not printing it indoors. I picture we should be able to make it this easy:

Material Smell VOC/FP/UFP/SER Long name Comments
PLA little often stated as harmless polylactic acid
PET/PETG little often stated as harmless polyethylene terephthalate [glycol-modified]
TPU little often stated as harmless polyurethan
PC mild? ? polycarbonate
PP mild? fair? polypropylene “no fumes”
PA/PAHT/PA6 (nylon) ? ? polyamide
PS/HIPS ? toxic polystyrene
ASA distinct “plastic” smell toxic acrylonitrile styrene acrylate
ABS stinks toxic acrylonitrile butadiene styrene
anything-CF/GF - fine particles (FP) carbon/glass fiber HEPA can reduce FP

A HEPA filter must catch at least 99.97% of FP (fine particles, 0.3µm or larger) but it dosn’t reduce UFP (ultra fine) much.

I assumed I can group PET and PETG as one for this purpose, and same for the nylon variants. Please enlighten me if that is not the case.

This topic can create long discussions so please make it simple! Let’s establish that even PLA produces some VOCs and particles that are not exactly helping the indoor climate. So please let’s keep it on a level like “not worse than PLA”, “mostly fine” or "this is toxic for real, avoid”.

The “smell” parameter can be subjective (I don’t mind the smell of ASA but my wife do) and it might also vary among brands. Perhaps start out with Bambu’s filaments, and we can add comments if we know some particular other brand is significantly better or worse. Personally I’ve printed PLA, PETG, TPU, PC and ASA so far, all Bambu except some TPU. ASA smelled for sure (I didn’t find it particularly bad, just “plastic”) but I can’t recall if the PC smelled at all? The others do not smell at all IMHO.

As for improving ventilation of room or filtration of printer, please leave it out from this thread! It’s a good topic and I’m looking into that as well but this thread is not about that. However, if some material mostly produce VOC but not particles or vice versa, it could be a data point.

I found contradicting data for PA and PC. I’ll be continuing exercising my google-fu. Will update the table over time (with your additions too of course). Also, this a wiki entry. I’m not sure others can edit it right away or maybe some moderator need to do some magic?

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Okay, I make it simple for you.


There, thats all you need to know really.

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What you did, was polluting the thread with explicitly off-topic noise. Just go away.

Your own words: “My objective is to make a simplified chart of materials for indoor printing with marginal ventilation”

-Beginning of list of safe materials to print with marginal ventilation
-End of list

I’m sure everyone but you understands the point. I never wrote “safe” other than in the fictious smell example. The title says safe-ish and the longer text explains it more like “not worse than PLA”. You are clearly only here to argue and make a fool of yourself. Go away, troll.

Many filaments have different fillers/blends that would more than likely be difficult to account for. Kind of why I hazard on the side of just venting when I can regardless what I’m printing. But since that’s a near impossible task, I’d say we leave that notion out of here unless we are talking about a known type of blended filament, like PETG-CF, PC-ABS.

Okay have it your way. Whatever you mean by 'suitable" or “worse than PLA” other than safety related is a mysterie to me but hey its your party!

In the third column of your chart, I understand what VOC, FP, and UFP refer to, but, to be clear, what does “SER” refer to?

Seriously dude, that is another word I did not write. Are you OK? Am I somehow offending you in my try to assess risks? But you just make a fool of yourself. I’m fine with that in general, but not in this thread please. I tried to express this clearly in my OP.

Had to google that one, but I believe he means Specific Emission Rate. Something that isn’t really talked about, but really needs to be understood. We know ABS emits VOCs (styrene) while printing, but we don’t now how much and at what rate; at least I don’t :slight_smile: . Understanding this bit would likely help with peoples decision making on where to place their printers and/or whether fume mitigation is important. Will probably need to look up some research articles to get the data. Your average consumer isn’t equipped with the measurement equipment needed for that level of detail.

Right, and that abbreviation was something I never heard of until today when researching. We probably shouldn’t go into that level for a coarse grained “do or don’t” chart. However, I think it’s good to know whether the risk can be mitigated at all with a HEPA filter, a carbon filter or both. And when none of them would help.

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Oh maybe it was there before I added “that also doesn’t smell” to the title. Didn’t remember that, and I actually can’t find it in the edit history but OK, I stand corrected. Still not sure how my exact choice of words is important at all? This is meant to become a wiki entry, it’s not about me at all.

I see. You don’t care, but you can’t wait. Brilliant!

What I don’t care about is you or your health (anymore).

However, I can’t wait what this thread will be about if you are not allowed tot talk about safety.

Don’t worry, I will only read from now on

Pot, meet Kettle…

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The way I read this thread, the OP would like to do a kind of rough and ready risk assessment, such that if he knew certain things were definitely bad or risky and also dificult to mitigate, then he would perhaps avoid them in favor something that wasn’t bad or risky, or was perhaps at least easy to mitigate. In short, do we have enough facts to approach the subject rationally? If not, can we even make plausible guesses and use that to guide our decisions?

I’m not smart enough to fill in the blanks on the chart, but if there were a framework like that, then I’d like to know it too. Who wouldn’t?

I did find a similar attempt by woodworkers to think about their risks to dust exposure: Shop Dust Evidence - FineWoodworking
I like how the OP in that thread tried to quantify and compare the risk of wood dust exposure to the known risk to of dying in a car accident, because the latter is a risk that many of us are willing to take every day, often without even thinking about it. I don’t know if his math was right or not, but if he is right, then I was surprised at how low the risk seemed to be in comparison to the risk of dying in a car crash. If his numbers are correct, then apparently in that industry people put on a dust mask to protect themselves not because they have evidence of extreme risk, but because it’s easy to do and doesn’t cost much, so people just seem to figure: hey, why not? If it helps, then great, and if it doesn’t, it only costs me some small expense and small inconvenience. I think that’s what will happen in 3D printing. People will eventually do it even if the risk remains sketchy, when it’s both good enough and cheap enough and easy enough , just in case it turns out to matter. If and when we do ever know for sure, I’m guessing it will be long after the fact. Right now, we’re the experiment.

Edit: I didn’t do his argument justice, but succintly put: if you’re going to worry about something, you’re time would be better spent figuring out how not to die in a car accident. That said, if the effort of avoiding death by sawdust is low enough, then sure, throw that into the mix as well. It can’t hurt, and, who knows, maybe it might even help.

Anyhow, the analogy to potential 3D printing risks seems plain enough, so I won’t belabor it.

Right, thanks for improving the SNR a little. It started with the fact that “PLA, PETG and TPU are widely considered safe enough that lots of people print them in their homes, some even in their bedrooms and many on open printers” (Note for my mate with RCD: I’m not saying it’s a fact that any of those materials is safe - I only consider the quote, in its entirety, a fact).

Given I have an enclosed printer which isn’t running in anyones bedroom, I’ve simply opted to go with the same assumption, good or bad, until we know better. So I was merely wondering are there any more materials besides those three, just less known?. And then I figured if there is some additional material that is believed to be about as benign as those three but smells like ensilage, that would be excellent to know before ordering 4 kg of it. Thus my humble chart that Chris hated so much his whole day was ruined.

Maybe there isn’t really anything to add to the list, but that would also be a usable result: Don’t waste any more time looking.

On another note, I just received some PET-CF that I ordered because of it’s temperature resistance (unfortunately it also has a distinguished price tag) - and hey, it’s PET so that should be safe? Alas, no - one of the things I confirmed while googling this subject was that anything GF/CF will likely emit huge quantities of fine particles. On the other hand, a HEPA filter [given a well thought out installation, obviously] will catch exactly those particles. Knowledge is power. Maybe I can come up with some filtration that I deem Good Enough™ for me. Or maybe I’ll just wait until spring when I can move my equipment to the garage.

I don’t know if you have a AQ meter, but I’ve been using one from AirGradient. It measures PM 0.3, PM 1.0, PM 2.5, and PM 10.0 particle sizes. Might be useful to look at while you print with CF filament. I kind of want to crack open my PLA-CF that I never planned to use to see what it picks up.

I considered buying one but there’s always the risk of ending up with something crappy these days unless doing a full day of research first. AirGradient does look appealing to me though, I will have a look-see thank you!

Does a filter like the bento box, inside the X1C or other enclosed printers, do a good enough job by itself to make it relatively safe to use those filaments that produce unsafe VOCs and other harmful substances?

OP specifically doesn’t want to go over fume mitigation in this thread so I’ll make it brief. A bento box does a good job at scrubbing the air in the printer, but it does not completely remove the small particles and VOCs that sometimes escape the printer. Whether its enough to make the fumes safe? That’s honestly not something we can answer right now.