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3D Printing in Schools – Health & Safety FAQ

Article by Paul Sesto created/updated January 4, 2017

Our MakerBot & Stratasys 3D Printers are a mainstay in education at all levels – elementary & high schools, colleges & universities and also public libraries. This past September we posted part one of our three-part blog series covering 3D Printing Health & Safety in schools. We will now dig further into the topic!

Health and safety (H&S) considerations and the successful implementation of 3D printers are very important to Javelin, Stratasys and MakerBot. As the 3D Printing Education Specialist at Javelin, I work with numerous Ontario school boards to discuss their specific H&S concerns.

3d printing school

In early 2016, Javelin was awarded a competitive bid contract for 3D printers by The Toronto District School Board – the 4th largest school board in North America. Also, in early 2016, Javelin was awarded a 3D printing contract by OECM (Ontario Education Collaborative Marketplace). OECM is a procurement sourcing partner for Ontario’s education and broader public sector. Both of these contracts had major components covering health & safety factors for the provision of safe, reliable and quality 3D printers for classrooms.

As Javelin is often asked by school boards to respond to a series of H&S concerns, I have created these H&S FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) to address various concerns.

I will answer these FAQ with respect to our recommendations for our MakerBot Replicator+ and Mini+ and our Stratasys Mojo & uPrint SE / SE Plus.

3D Printer Health & Safety FAQ

Do your printers meet Canadian electrical standards?

I can understand the concern here. There are at least 200-300 consumer level 3D printers available and the lack of quality and/or any adherence to safety standards with some of these printers is a real concern to everyone. All 3D printers are not the same.

Stratasys is one of the founders of the 3D printing industry, with over 27 years of experience, and is the parent company of MakerBot. As an industry leader, safety standards are a very important component in the design & use of Stratasys and MakerBot 3D printers. MakerBot & Stratasys 3D printers are either UL or TUV certified to meet the equivalent Canadian electrical standards.

All of the printers are design to be used unattended and many users run the printers overnight as they are designed to shut down if there is a malfunction. The printers also stop automatically once the print is complete. Similar to all high quality equipment, all of the 3D printer user manuals have safe operating instructions & precautions. Schools boards can adopt their own safety & operation procedures and Javelin can assist or consult in this process.

3d printing school

We have some concerns about moving parts and the extruder heating element. Are your 3D printers enclosed?

As commercial grade 3D printers, our Stratasys Mojo and uPrint SE & uPrint SE Plus are fully enclosed with electromechanical locks that do not permit the operator to open the printer while it is in operation. These ABS printers are recommended for high school technical programs as they build strong functional parts. These printers have been a workhorse in both education & industry for a number of years.

Our MakerBot Mini+ and Replicator+ use PLA filament and are recommended as entry level 3D printers for both elementary & high schools. Once the MakerBot has run through its printing cycle the MakerBot SmartExtruder+ automatically starts its cooling cycle. It does the same if the printer is not being used. On the rare occasion that the extruder should jam, it automatically shuts down. This is just one of the reasons why the extruder has earned it’s “Smart” title!

Although MakerBot printers are not enclosed, a simple safety screen can be easily constructed as recently shown in this Javelin blog post. The screen is made using 3D printed parts and materials that are easily obtained at a local hardware store. The safety screen can also be easily adapted to have higher sides & a top horizontal panel if required.

Note: Printers should be operated in a supervised environment following simple safety procedures.

3d printing school

What materials do your printers use?

The MakerBot Replicator+ and Mini+ use PLA filament – a non-toxic starch based resin. The Stratasys Mojo & uPrint SE/SE Plus in their fully enclosed unit use ABSplus filament – a proprietary filament from Stratasys.

3d printing school

What about the emissions from the 3D printers?

Stratasys & MakerBot recommendations for their respective printers is that no special ventilation is required. It is recommended that the printers be installed in a well-ventilated area.

To read more directly about MakerBot’s position on the safety of PLA filament emissions see ‘Safe and Sound: MakerBot PLA Filament‘.

For our Mojo & uPrint SE & SE Plus ABSplus filament printers, Stratasys had studies conducted by an independent lab that concluded that emissions were extremely low and in most cases less than 1% of established commercial industry standards. Upon request, more details on these studies are available to our Javelin education prospects.

 

Remember: To be successful in schools you need two components…

  1. Safe, reliable & robust 3D printer, such as Javelin’s industry leading MakerBot & Stratasys 3D printers.
  2. A learning curriculum integrated into your STEM or STEAM program. We encourage you to contact Javelin for a series of teacher resources from MakerBot and Stratasys to help you with lesson plans and ideas and assistance in learning 3D CAD. This includes the free e-book: MakerBot in the Classroom.

Stay tuned for the final ‘3D Printing Health & Safety in Schools’ blog post, where we will go over additional H&S FAQ. In the meantime, feel free to contact us if you have any questions that were not mentioned here, or if you would like more information on the 3D printers that we offer.

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