3D printing has become a growing trend for individuals and businesses alike, from enthusiasts producing 3D figurines to construction companies creating the world’s first 3D printed neighborhood in Texas. As more 3D printers are used in homes, it is important to understand the potential fire risks, how to follow 3D printing safety practices, and why to invest in Docking Drawer's Safety Interlock Outlet with Smoke & Heat Sensor to help stop 3D printer fires before they start.
Prusa Mini+ 3D printer using Docking Drawer’s Safety Interlock Outlet with Smoke and Heat Sensor.
3D printing involves using software to design a 3D object by using high heat and a thread-like filament to create the object in three-dimensional layers. There are many different types of filament available for 3D printing, and they each involve high temperatures that pose a fire hazard. A few of the most popular heat-generating 3D printing materials include:
- Polylactic Acid (PLA) is the most common 3D printing material, with a hot end temperature of up to 428°F (220°C).
- Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA) is another common material that is often used with PLA and has a similar ideal temperature of up to 428°F (220°C).
- Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) is popular for creating 3D models of items like phone cases, automotive parts, and even Legos. The printing temperature for ABS can vary; however, some popular brands can require temperatures up to 464°F (240°C).
The Most Common Fire Hazards for 3D Printers
As you might imagine, with a machine operating at such high temperatures, there are a variety of fire hazards that are inherently part of the 3D printing process:
If you use a 3D printer in your home, you may already have experience with just how hot these machines can get. Some 3D printers can reach up to 600°F, but even at lesser temperatures, there is potential for wiring to become overheated which could lead to a fire.
An extruder uses heat to melt the filament to create the 3D design. It must cool down between each layer to reduce the risk of the design material overheating, so if the extruder gets stuck in one spot of the design, then the melting of the filament could result in a fire.
The thermistor is the device responsible for regulating the temperature of the 3D printer, and if the thermistor is loose, it won’t be able to accurately measure the temperature which increases the chance of overheating.
Faulty thermal runaway protection
Usually a result of incorrectly installed hardware, thermal runaway is when a 3D printer temperature cannot stop increasing. Thermal runaway protection will shut off the printer if it gets too hot; however, if the thermal runaway protection is loose or has malfunctioned, there is an increased chance of a 3D printer fire.
While enclosures are intended to reduce the risk of fire, using materials like wood, foam, and plastic can be a fire hazard since they are all combustible.
A 3D printing fire hazard with filament that overheated and became melted. Image source: Reddit.
Practice 3D Printing Safety for Overnight & Extended Printing
Reasons 3D Printers are Often Run Overnight
Many 3D printer enthusiasts have large or complicated 3D designs, which means they can take a very long time to print. Some high-quality 3D printers can actively print for up to 24 hours, but the performance of the machine is often dependent upon how often the printer is being run as well as if the machine is properly maintained and cleaned.
While most 3D printers include instructions to not leave the 3D printer unattended while printing, it is extremely difficult to monitor a design for, say, 12 hours straight. Meanwhile, if an active printing session is paused at night and restarted in the morning, the 3D print would shrink as it cooled overnight, and restarting the print would lead to an uneven design.
Enclosures for Improved 3D Printing Safety
Many people take an extra step to practice 3D printing safety measures by purchasing or building a fireproof enclosure to cover the machine and help reduce both the risk of fire as well as minimize the inhalation from any of the fumes caused by the printing process. Enclosures help keep the temperature inside consistent by preventing any air or heat drafts from impacting the accuracy of the 3D print.
The Best Accessory to Reduce 3D Printer Fire Hazards
Connect your 3D printer to the Docking Drawer Safety Interlock Outlet with Smoke & Heat Sensor, an interlocking safety outlet that will cut power to the outlet itself AND the connected 3D printer at the very first sign of smoke or excessive heat, potentially saving you hundreds of thousands of dollars in smoke and fire restoration costs. This accessory is not only recommended for general 3D printing practices, but especially for those that leave printers running unattended for long periods of time. Just take it from our customer, Patryk:
"I run my 3D printer overnight and when I'm at work. I'm worried if there is a fire I will burn the house down... There are stories online of people’s houses burning down due to 3D printers. It's rare. But I'd rather have this device as a backup rather than risk what could happen without it." – Patryk W.
Example of the 3D printing safety accessory in place with the Smoke and Heat Sensor.
How the Safety Interlock Outlet with Smoke and Heat Sensor Improves 3D Printing Safety
When it comes to 3D printer safety, Docking Drawer’s Safety Interlock Outlet with Smoke and Heat Sensor is a simple, safe, and smart (not to mention affordable) solution.
This Safety Interlock Outlet is a 15 amp single gang electrical outlet that features one interlock switch connector as well as one NEMA 5-15 receptacle. It also has an LED indicator that will light up green when the outlet and 3D printer are energized, and will turn red and sound an alert when the outlet and 3D printer have been de-energized due to smoke or excessive heat.
The Smoke & Heat Sensor mounts nearby, and will de-energize the outlet and connected printer at the first sign of smoke or excessive heat, or if the temperature rises more than 15°F per minute. This safety outlet features a low-voltage, 10-foot long cable and is intended to be an additional layer of safety for your 3D printer (it is not a replacement for an approved smoke detector, as required by code for your home).
Rendering showing where the Safety Interlock Outlet and Smoke and Heat Sensor are installed on a 3D printer.
Invest in the Safety of Your Home
Investing in safety is more than just protecting items from being damaged or avoiding expensive restoration costs; it can mean investing in the safety of yourself and your family when accessories like 3D printers are used in the household. Installing the Safety Interlock Outlet and Smoke and Heat Sensor is simple and is well worth the piece of mind in knowing you have additional protection against the known fire hazards of 3D Printing.
You can purchase the Docking Drawer Safety Interlock Outlet with Smoke and Heat Sensor in packs of 1, 5, or 10 to not only enhance 3D printer safety measures, but to protect yourself from other common household fire culprits like microwaves, dishwashers, electric dryers, A/V closets, and any device that's left unattended while powered on.
“That’s the beauty of your [product]! It activates at the earliest possible moment and kills the power creating the opportunity for either self-extinguishment, or better yet, no fire at all. I teach a monthly fire extinguisher class where I tell the students that “if you can de-energize the equipment, 90% or the majority of time the fire will self-extinguish.”
– RICH D. RETIRED FIRE CHIEF
Gambody Team. (2022, June 8). 3D printer fire risks with overnight printing. Gambody, 3D Printing Blog. Retrieved from https://www.gambody.com/blog/prevent-3d-printer-fire-issues-is-it-safe-to-leave-a-3d-printer-on-overnight/
Reynolds, J. (2022, October 26). Is 3D printing a fire hazard. Nikko Industries. Retrieved from https://www.nikkoindustries.com/blogs/news/is-3d-printing-a-fire-hazard/
Ben. (2022, September 15). How hot is too hot for a 3D printer? Printing It 3D. Retrieved from https://printingit3d.com/how-hot-is-too-hot-for-a-3d-printer/