Emissions associated with operations of four different additive manufacturing or 3D printing technologies

J Occup Environ Hyg. 2020 Oct;17(10):464-479. doi: 10.1080/15459624.2020.1798012. Epub 2020 Aug 18.


In this pilot-scale study, a wide range of potential emissions were evaluated for four types of additive manufacturing (AM) machines. These included material extrusion (using acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene [ABS]); material jetting (using liquid photopolymer); powder bed fusion (using nylon); and vat photopolymerization (using liquid photopolymer) in an industrial laboratory setting. During isolated operation of AM machines, adjacent area samples were collected for compounds of potential concern (COPCs), including total and individual volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nano- and micron-sized particulate matter, and inorganic gases. A total of 61 compounds were also sampled using a canister followed by gas chromatography and mass spectrometry analysis. Most COPCs were not detected or were measured at concentrations far below relevant occupational exposure limits (OELs) during AM machine operations. Submicron particles, predominantly nanoparticles, were produced during material extrusion printing using ABS at approximately 12,000 particles per cubic centimeter (p cm-3) above background. After subtracting the mean background concentration, the mean concentration for material extrusion printing operations correlated with a calculated emission rate of 2.8 × 1010 p min-1 under the conditions tested. During processing of parts produced using material jetting or powder bed fusion, emissions were generally negligible, although concentrations above background of respirable and total dust were measured during processing of powder bed fusion parts. Results of this pilot-scale study indicate that airborne emissions associated with AM operations are variable, depending on printing and parts handling processes, raw materials, and ventilation characteristics. Although personal samples were not collected in this pilot-scale study, the results can be used to inform future exposure assessments. Based on the results of this evaluation, measurement of submicron particles emitted during material extrusion printing operations and dust associated with handling parts manufactured using powder bed fusion processes should be included in exposure assessments.

Keywords: 3D printers; additive manufacturing; emissions; nanoparticles; occupational health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis*
  • Gases / analysis
  • Nanoparticles / analysis
  • Particle Size
  • Particulate Matter / analysis*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Printing, Three-Dimensional*
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / analysis*


  • Gases
  • Particulate Matter
  • Volatile Organic Compounds