Tobold's Blog
Thursday, November 28, 2019
Resin 3D printing - Don't try this at home!

I rarely talk about my day job on this blog, because I usually consider it not to be relevant for the game or hobby subjects I discuss. But in this case, it is. I have a Ph.D. in Chemistry, and since more than 20 years I am working in a research center. While I don't work in the lab anymore, I did lab work for many years, and as the company I work for takes safety really seriously, I am still very much informed about safety issues in chemistry. In other words, when it comes to the subject of being knowledgeable about the safe handling of chemicals, I'm in the top 1%.

Now I would love to own a resin 3D printer. For my specific application of 3D printing, which is tabletop miniatures for role-playing, a resin 3D printer is much better than a fused deposition modeling printer. Resin printing generally produces higher resolution pieces, and works best for small pieces. A resin printed miniature is often semi-transparent, has a very smooth surface, and has much better detail than a FDM printed miniature.

But I don't buy a resin 3D printer, because I consider it to be too dangerous to use in my apartment. The acrylic resins used, according to a typical material safety data sheet, cause skin irritation, cause serious eye irritation, may cause an allergic skin reaction, may cause respiratory irritation, are are harmful to aquatic life with long-lasting effects. I would be perfectly happy to handle this sort of material in a laboratory, with the necessary safety equipment, and especially a fume hood. But I sure as hell don't want that stuff in my house! And, remember, this is an expert speaking.

If I had a house with a second kitchen, not used for food, I might consider installing a resin 3D printer under the kitchen hood, always wearing gloves while handling the resin and printed objects. Otherwise I really wouldn't recommend this sort of printer inside your house or apartment. You can't avoid the fumes, because the acrylic resin is sitting in an open tub. And while you can make the printed objects safe to handle by washing them, preferably in several steps, with isopropanol, that means that at some point in time you will have a container full of isopropanol saturated with acrylic resin. That is hazardous waste, you can't just pour that down your drain without doing serious damage to the environment.

A FDM 3D printer, especially if you print with spools of PLA, is much, much safer than a resin printer. The details on small pieces aren't as nice, but for larger pieces FDM is the better option anyway. And you don't slowly poison yourself and your family while doing it. So if you are tempted by the latest generation of resin 3D printers for under $300, please resist that temptation. It just isn't worth the risk!


This is something that Youtubers don't stress too much, sadly. Yes, they tell you "take some precautions" but that's it.
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