3D Printers

Large print, braille, MP3 (audio), e-text and DAISY formats are available on demand by ordering online or calling 1 800 O-Canada (1-800-622-6232). If you use a teletypewriter (TTY), call 1-800-926-9105.

Background

Three-dimensional (3D) printers are increasingly common in workplaces. 3D printers can build and manufacture physical objects of various sizes and composition from computer images.
Common 3D printers melt plastic through a hot nozzle, and then layer it to construct solid objects. Printing at higher temperatures can cause the plastic to emit 10 times more hazardous dust and plastic vapours than printing at lower temperatures.

“Exotic” materials can also be combined with plastics that melt at a low temperature. Some of these materials are: dust (wood, bamboo or metal), carbon fibre, beer brewing by-products, cork, or coffee.

Metal 3D printing melts fine metal powder – such as aluminum or titanium – with laser beams, which can release fine metal particles into the workplace. Some 3D printers use a laser or an ultraviolet (UV) light to solidify liquid resin, which can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Other 3D printers use wood fibre nanoparticles and carbon nanotubes dissolved in hydrogel to create electrically conductive “wooden” objects.

These hazardous emissions and nanoparticles pose a risk to the health of workers, and can cause health problems such as: asthma, inflammation of the lungs, headaches, coughing, circulatory system problems, and skin illnesses. The applicable occupational exposure limits of the ingredients must be followed.

Hazards

Factors that can lead to an accident, death, or illness from using a 3D printer include:

Eliminating and Controlling the Hazard

3D printers are more hazardous than paper printers, and must be treated with a similar level of care used for other industrial equipment. For example:

Legislative Requirements

Canadian Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (COHSR) Part X describes the requirements for such hazard investigations when there is a likelihood of a hazardous exposure that endangers the health or safety of a worker, including:

COHSR Part XII contains requirements for the appropriate personal protective equipment that must be used when using 3D printers, including: skin; eye; face; and respiratory protection.

COHSR Part XIX contains requirements for a hazard prevention program, including: identifying and assessing hazards; preventive measures; employee education and training; and program evaluation.

Additional Resources

For more information on controlling exposure to hazardous substances, especially those that do not have an established occupational exposure limit, please refer to the: Control Banding Guideline.

For more information on controlling exposure to nanoparticles, please refer to: Engineered Nanoparticles: Health and Safety Considerations.

For further information, please contact the ESDC Labour Program Office at 1-800-641-4049. The Labour Program website provides information on occupational health and safety topics such as: Right to Know, Right to refuse dangerous work, and Workplace Health and Safety Committees.

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