IIT’s Research Project with the Built Environment Research Group (BERG) Launches on Kickstarter

Are the fumes from 3D printers hazardous to our health and to the environment? Los Angeles-based Clean Strands has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funding for emissions testing and certification of plastic filament used in 3D printing.

Just as ink jet cartridges provide the toner for printers, 3D printing filament is what goes into a 3D printer in order to print out objects. Most filament is either PLA or ABS plastic, which emits fumes when heated, often above 428F, inside a 3D printer. Very little research has been done on air quality in businesses, homes and schools where 3D printing takes place. And, while a few industrial certifications exist (ROHS and REACH), there are currently no certifications that specifically address consumer use of plastic 3D printing filament.

To find out which chemicals are being emitted into the air, and in what concentrations, Clean Strands plans to work with the Built Environment Research Group (BERG) at Illinois Institute of Technology; BERG is the only research lab that has published an extensive study on indoor air quality and 3D printing. Under the direction of BERG’s founder, Brent Stephens, testing will include the UFPs (ultra-fine particles) and TVOCs (total volatile organic compounds) of approximately 10-20 PLA and ABS filaments when used in a 3D printer at varying degrees of temperature.

To set standards for safe indoor air quality when 3D printing with plastic filament, Clean Strands has partnered with Ramboll ENVIRON, a global environmental consultancy, specializing in air emissions. The team at Ramboll ENVIRON, led by Principal Joseph Hower, PE, DEE, will help Clean Strands evaluate which chemicals, in addition to which concentrations of those chemicals, could be hazardous to our health and to the environment. Clean Strands will combine this research with data from the lab to form the Clean Strands Seal of Approval.

“With the anticipated success of our Kickstarter campaign, testing and certification will begin in September, and all of our results made public by the end of the year,” said Clean Strands Founder, Rachel Spieczny. “We’ll encourage manufacturers to display the Clean Strands Seal of Approval on qualifying boxes of filament, with our overall goal for this project to raise awareness, encourage further research, and promote dialogue about 3D printing and consumer safety.”

To donate to the Clean Strands Kickstarter project, click here.