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Is 3D Printing a Fire Hazard

Is 3D Printing a Fire Hazard

3D printers are revolutionary pieces of electrical equipment, but they can still malfunction. The 3D printer generates heat like any other gadget, posing a fire threat. The most typical 3D printing procedures involve a thread-like plastic filament (referred to as feedstock) which is melted by a heating source before being fired through a nozzle. Long-term exposure to some materials' vapors can also be dangerous. Since they use electricity to generate heat, 3D printers are at risk of catching fire.

If your 3D printer overheats or glitches, it may rapidly start a fire, and if you're not prepared to put it out, you might destroy your printer or even burn down your house. For example, the oven often gets hot when used, but leaving it on overtime without using it can cause a fire outbreak.

The same applies to 3D printers. It's uncommon, but it does happen, so every 3D printer manufacturer specifies that a 3D printer should never be left unattended. This article will expose the causes of fire hazards in 3D printing, increased risks, and preventive measures. 

Is There an Increased Risk of Fire in 3D Printing?

Yes, there is an increased risk of fire in 3D printing because your 3D printer requires heat to print. Can it be managed? Of course, you can easily manage it.

Hot plastic is poured into an equally hot printing plate during the printing process. 220oC is the average temperature used (the same temperature used in ovens.) The origins of the fire are frequently found in the equipment utilized rather than in the process itself.

Plate fires, flaring nozzles, and power outages are all possible outcomes. However, there are frequently a variety of potential fire sources at work. Spray cans containing cleaning and lubrication chemicals and flammable hairspray should be kept away from the 3D printer. An additional threat is exposed or improperly routed cables.

How Can a 3D Printer Cause Fire?

Fire hazards in 3D printers are mostly linked to cheap printers. Users who like printing as a passion are increasingly resorting to China's inexpensive 3D printer kits, which cost hundreds of dollars. However, you should be aware that such a kit might be pretty harmful.

The printer's power supply isn't checked, and circuit boards frequently have poor solder connections and low-quality processing components. Furthermore, such 3D printers are often constructed with acrylic glass, which helps a fire spread even faster. Aside from significant fire risk, these kits also pose an electrical shock due to wiring work that should only be done by expert electricians.

Causes of Fire Hazards in 3D Printing

A 3D printer could catch fire for a variety of reasons. Electrical overheating, a loose thermistor, a thermal runaway fault, an extrusion jam, or flammable casings are the most prevalent causes of 3D printer fires.

  • Overheating Caused by Electricity

Most 3D printer fires are caused by electrical fires, which occur when the wires within your printer become too hot to handle and melt the insulation. When this happens, the cables may transmit heat throughout your 3D printer, melt the frame, filament, or internal structural parts, and start a fire from within. The majority of 3D printer fires caused by electrical difficulties are the consequence of a printer that was improperly constructed.

  • Loose Thermistors

When you print something, the 3D printer will continue to heat up. Your printer's temperature-reading device is a thermistor, which regulates the temperature and prevents the filament from burning. Thermistors sense the temperature via a sensor and communicate with your printer's controllers to alter how much heat it creates. They are, however, screwed to the printer, and they use wires to connect to the printer's control boards, and these connections are notable for falling loose. Your printer won't be able to gauge the heat level if the connections become loose.

  • Extrusion Malfunctioning

The extruder utilizes heat to construct your object, but if it doesn't have time to cool between layers, it might cause a severe fire danger. The heated extruder will move as your object prints, spreading thin layers of molten filament onto the printing surface. However, if the printing fails and prevents the extruder from moving correctly, the extruder may become stuck in one area on your object. When this occurs, the extruder may overheat the model to the point that it melts and catches fire.

  • Flammable Casings

Thermal printers of high quality might be costly, but they are typically worth it because printers made of cheap, combustible materials frequently catch fire during printing. When it comes to holding all of the elements together, materials like foam, acrylic, plastic, and wood are appropriate for the structural components of your 3D printer. However, using these combustible components drastically increases the chance of your printer melting into a molten mound of dissolved materials.

  • Thermal Runaway Malfunctioning

Many of the plastic and acrylic materials used in 3D printers and filament are flammable. Your printer's shell, filament, or components might melt if the heat rises without being checked, resulting in a fire. A thermal runaway feature in most 3D printers shuts off the printer if it gets too hot. The thermal runaway feature prevents your 3D printer from catching fire if the thermistor malfunctions or becomes loose. On the other hand, if the thermal runaway is poorly constructed or fails to detect the heat level of your thermistor, you've got a sure-fire formula for flames.

  • Power Sources

Cheap power supply devices may pose a greater risk. These are caused mainly by wires, terminals, or individual components getting overheated to the point where the plastic insulation catches fire or other parts in direct contact with the wire burn. Wire insulation and connections come in a variety of flame retardant options. As a result, if the temperature becomes too high, the plastic melts first. On the other hand, plastic has a chemical that stops it from actively catching fire, even when it comes into contact with an open flame. Most of the other plastic elements of a 3D printer, on the other hand, are not generally flame retardant; thus, a single flaw might cause the entire device to catch fire.

Preventive Measures

Preparing for the potential of a fire is usually a brilliant idea, so you have the necessary tools and don't panic. Basic safety procedures and checks can help lessen the chances of it happening. It's a great idea to double-check that your printer is linked and secure. Electrical plugs and cables must be securely fastened. Heat-sensitive components should be securely fastened. Here are some preventive measures to inculcate during remote printing:

  1. Monitor the temperature: Check that your printer monitors nozzle temperature and shuts off power to the hot end if it surpasses safe parameters. This is what Prusa printers are known for.
  2. Filament monitoring: Many printers with filament monitors halt or stop the printing activity when material runs out. Check to see whether yours also shuts down the hot end and hotbed.
  3. Enclosures: Enclosures control temperature, noise reduction, and air quality. A suitable enclosure can also aid in preventing the spread of a fire. Fire-resistant panels used to line air ducts are an excellent method to provide enclosures with an extra layer of fire-resistant protection.
  4. Power supply: Power supplies that are too cheap might be harmful. The market has compelled manufacturers to improve their devices, which were once widespread. Certification, fusing, proper wire size, and connections suitable for the amperage drawn by hot ends and heated beds should all be checked on your printer. If you believe yours is insufficient, you should seriously consider upgrading.
  5. Connectors for wires: Resistance is caused by loose connections. Heat is produced via resistance. Check the current capacity on the connector to make sure it's the right one. It's not a terrible idea to replace any connectors that aren't up to standard.
  6. Positioning: Check to see whether your printer is obstructing any exit pathways. It is entirely up to you whether or not you believe the window to be an escape route. If it does start a fire, be sure it doesn't instantly close the door, locking anyone inside or preventing you from entering to put out the fire before it spreads.
  7. Keep the printer clean: Fans and stepper motors are generally tiny enough to accept occasional jamming without overheating in hobby-size printers. Occasionally removing lint, plastic fragments, or unusual dirt with a little vacuum isn't a bad idea. Check the heat bed base as well; dust particles burn easily.
  8. Keep your desk tidy: Printers are not the best location to stack books and papers. Keep the workspace uncluttered so that if anything does heat up, it doesn't heat everything else around it. A fireproof room is usually the best location for remote printing, but few of us have one, so keeping a watch on things is crucial.
  9. Keep your printer in good working order: As stated previously, malfunctioning or loose thermistors are one of the most common causes of 3D printer fires. Tighten the screws on your thermistor on a regular basis and inspect for any loose wires to maintain it in excellent working order. You should also check the solder on the wires in your printer from time to time to verify that the heat runaways and electrical cables are secure and not burned.

Final Thoughts

3D printers can indeed heat up and cause fire hazards if not properly checked. You have to ensure that you invest in the right printing, not minding the cost. Suitable printers can be expensive indeed but getting a cheaper one may threaten your life. We hope we’ve done justice to explaining the causes of fire hazards in 3D printing and how to prevent such from happening.

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