3D printing can be a fun hobby until you get hurt. There are plenty of ways in which you can hurt yourself, or those close to you can be hurt. Thankfully it is pretty easy to implement basic protections to keep safe.
Multiple parts of a 3D printer can get very hot, easily enough to burn a misplaced hand. The hot end generally starts at 190°C but depending on the material in use, it can be hundreds of degrees hotter. If you’re working around the hot end of the printer, you should be very sure that it has had time to properly cool. If you do have to do put your hands near it while it’s hot, a pair of heat-proof gloves may save you from an extremely nasty burn. At this sort of temperature, they may not insulate you from all of the heat but they will certainly be better off with them than without.
It’s important to remember that the hot end isn’t necessarily the only hot part. Many printers utilise a heated print bed as this helps to improve part adhesion. While these may not always be hot enough to burn you, they can also reach 100°C or more for some materials. Take care not to put your hand too close to the heated print bed, especially while it is moving. Again, heat-proof gloves are a good idea as they might save you from getting burned.
If possible, putting your printer in an enclosure can help to keep it away from any accidental touches. If it’s out in the open children and pets may not realise that it’s not safe to touch and even someone aware of the risks can accidentally touch it.
There are a number of moving parts in a 3D printer, in which it’s possible to get your finger or hair caught for example. Most printers don’t include any feedback sensors to check if there’s anything blocking its movement. Doing so would add cost, weight, and complexity to the printer. Unfortunately, this means that if anything does get pinched in a printer, the printer won’t stop pinching it until it needs to move in another direction. Not only can this hurt, but it generally compromises your print too, as the printer may not have been able to move where it was supposed to.
Getting hair caught may not actually interfere with the operations of the printer at all but can dramatically increase your chances of getting burned. You should tie up any long hair before approaching a 3D printer.
A number of the tools used during post-processing can be sharp. Scrapers and knives are the most obvious examples. Be careful when using these tools to cut away from yourself and to ensure that both hands are behind the blade. Many makers have also found out the hard way that support structures can be sharp when broken off. You can mostly protect yourself from sharp objects by getting a pair of cut-resistant gloves.
Fire is an important risk to consider if you have a 3D printer. The best way to prepare for this issue is to imagine what you would do if it did catch fire. It’s particularly important to make sure a smoke alarm is installed directly above the printer. This will give you as much warning of a fire as possible. You should also have a CO2 or dry chemical powder fire extinguisher located away from the printer, near the door to the room. Everyone in your house should know how to use it in case they ever need to.
Tip: Water-based fire extinguishers are not safe to use around 3D printers because of the presence of electricity. You could end up getting a nasty shock if you’re unlucky.
The placement of your printer is also important. Try to place it so it is far from any exits. This gives anyone in the room the most time possible to be able to escape. You do not want a fire to immediately block the only exit from a room. Good fire planning and safety could be the difference between a close call and a tragedy. Planning can also allow you to contain the fire while it’s small. That’s much better than having to wait for the fire brigade to waterlog the remains of your smouldering home.
3D printing can be fun, but it’s also important to stay safe. Do you have any other safety tips? Let us know down below.