Health and Safety Tips for 3D Printing
NOTICE. I am not a medical professional. If you require proper medical advice please seek it from a trained professional.
What I provide below are my own understandings of safety and safety equipment regarding 3D SLA Printing and handling resins. These are provided not to shock or scare people, but purely to help spread awareness so that we can all safely enjoy this fantastic hobby.
3D Printing Resin is to be respected, not feared.
Note, the below applies to ALL 3D Printer resins, including eco-friendly/eco-brand resins.
General safety advice
1) Resin in its uncured state is dangerous to your health. Do not use your bare hands to handle resin if it is in its liquid form OR its semi-cured state (released from the build plate, but not yet fully cured).
If you’re taking photos of your Ameralabs Town Print in its uncured state for help with your exposure, you still have to wear your gloves.
2) Because curing only penetrates so far into a model, if you are going to make extensive modification to a model after it is printed (eg cutting/slicing/drilling), its advised to wear gloves and leave freshly exposed resin in the sun/curing chamber to fully cure. If sanding or otherwise generating a lot of fine particles then wear your face mask and work in a well ventilated area (same as for any resin models).
3) Keep your resin workstation clear, clean and organised. Use paper towels/microfibre cloths with a little IPA to wipe down surfaces and tools after use.
One tip to look for silicon dog mats, which have a raised lip edge, as they are an affordable way to give you a protected working surface to shield table/worktop surfaces and to help contain any mild spillage.
4) Whilst your printer wants to be shielded from light, having good lighting in your work area is important. A darkened out enclosure can keep your printer and resin safe from the light (remember printer hoods are not perfect light filters).
5) All disposable materials that come into contact with resin need to be exposed to UV light prior to disposal.
6) When disposing of liquids which have come into contact with resin (eg IPA or water) leave them exposed to sunlight to evaporate. With the resin residue that’s left behind given a good exposure as well before being disposed of with your regular waste.
7) Resin bottles might require specialist disposal, contact your local waste management centre for advice. In general curing the interior of the bottle is the minimum that you should be doing.
Personal Safety Gear advice:
To protect your hands the most common protective measure is to use disposable nitrile gloves. These will protect the skin of your hands up to your wrist from contact with the resin.
If you cannot use/obtain nitrile, then butyl disposable gloves work just as well.
Resin reacts with the glove material and whilst nitrile has a good working life, in general disposing them and using a fresh set each time is advised. Thicker/heavier duty long term gloves are out there, but because the resin eats into the material over time you can’t be sure at which point the glove is no longer protecting you.
Do NOT use latex as the resin will eat into it at a very rapid rate. From talking to others who have tried them, its only 30seconds or less.
If you want additional protection for your arm look for Long Cuff Disposable Nitrile gloves.
Do shop around a little, some glove brands can be quite thin and 3D printing has enough sharp edges that punchers can happen. If your glove becomes damaged and torn, stop, remove, wash hands, place on fresh gloves, resume.
If you want to make a saving you can also search for “expired” gloves. These are gloves that have gone over the time limit for their sterile status. They are perfectly fine for 3D printing where we don’t have to worry about sterility.
Safety goggles are advised. These protect your eyes from stray bits of resin, it only needs a tiny tiny bit to get onto your eye to cause problems. A drop flicking off the build plate as you get a print off is a very common way to get resin on your face and eyes.
Remember safety glasses/goggles cover the whole eye region, whilst most corrective lens glasses only cover a small portion and material can easily get behind them. Not to mention safety glasses protect your vision glasses too so they won’t need cleaning as often to get resin off.
One tip is to get UV safety goggles/glasses. These will give you not only physical eye protection, but UV protection as well when working with your curing setup.
Even if your resin printer is vented outside; even if you’ve got carbon air filters (Elegoo sell a nice pair of them that work well); even if you’ve got low odour resin – you will still have resin particles in the air. You can take all the mentioned precautions to reduce build up in the work environment, however you still need a mask which covers both your mouth and nose. The mask can be of any brand, but make sure that it filters “Organic Particles”. Also make sure that its fitted correctly and forms a good seal around your face.
If possible get the kind that have replaceable air filters, that way your long term costs are kept down.
Full face protection
A full face mask that covers your mouth and nose for breathing and provides a full face shield is a good solid purchase. This gives you additional protection from resin specks and flicks to your whole face, not just your eyes. It means you get three layers of protection instantly
c) Face skin
This can be a more serious cost, however most have replaceable air filters, so its a one time high cost and then long term low cost to replace air filters (which you’d have to do with even a half face mask that just covers your mouth and nose).
If you become exposed to resin
If your skin becomes exposed to liquid or semi-cured resin, STOP all activities and wash any affected areas with soap and water. You may experience some mild rash/itching in the affected area.
If you get resin into your eye the general advice is to carefully flush your eye with water and then seek medical attention. Remembering to take the resin bottle with you to the medical centre.
Note as resin bottles can sometimes get a little sticky with part cured resin on the surface, a clear sealable plastic bag is good to have to hand to place the bottle into when transporting.
If your clothing comes into contact with wet resin, STOP all activities and remove the contaminated clothing. It needs to be washed prior to wearing again. Note that resin will work through fabrics so even if its only on the surface, it will seep in and eventually reach your skin, which as noted in an example below, can have very serious health impacts.
Below you will find a series of videos, articles and links which are documented accounts of people who have had serious medical conditions as a result of coming into contact with resin.
1) Chemical burns on skin
2) Chemical burn on the eyes.
Note that in both stories, a major contributing factor in the degree of injury was that neither sought professional medical advice/attention directly after exposure to resin.
Please remember that I wrote this to inform and spread awareness. To respect the resin that we work with, not to fear it. Resin printing can be very safe and is a fantastic hobby, but we all have to respect the dangers for what they are and take proper precautions and safety measures to reduce the chances of injury.
I am NOT a doctor nor medical professional. If you want professional advice please consult a qualified doctor.