It’s that time again: sensationalist news! In the headlines over the weekend, non-tech media returned to the favored pastime of vilifying 3D printers which, obviously, can cause perfectly lovely people to perish. We’ve previously seen 3D printers blamed for having started lethal fires; recently, a (since-updated) report indicated that carbon monoxide coming from a 3D printer was the suspected cause of death of a couple and their two cats in Berkeley, California. In an age of alternative facts and sensationalist media, let’s turn instead to the truth. The recent deaths in California were a tragedy. Their 3D printer was not to blame.
But could your 3D printer kill you? Sure.
Depending on your setup and what materials you’re using, your 3D printer may be offgassing some fumes that aren’t great for your health; studies are ongoing to see just how unhealthy fumes are, how indoor air quality can be affected, and how troublesome metal powders may be — but you’re probably not in danger of being offed in your sleep while the 3D printer a room or two away creates your next Baby Groot, benchy, or Yoda head. Use your 3D printer in a well-ventilated area and with common sense safety precautions (like enclosures and fans), and you’re very likely to be just fine.
So if the fumes won’t (immediately) get you, what will?
Well… it probably wouldn’t be a proud way to go out, as you’d be most likely to meet your end via 3D printing only by leaving common sense at the door, which can be a problem — as Australia’s Metro Trains has very catchily pointed out in the past:
Connecting to an inappropriate power source, or using the wrong type of power supply; electrical fires are a real possibility here, as with any plugged-in device
Getting your tie/necklace/self caught in moving parts on an unenclosed printer and being drawn in
Licking the extruding nozzle while it is hot (a bad idea at any point, but especially when the hot end is hot) — ditto for heated build plate
Using gasoline or kerosene in lieu of a glue stick or painter’s tape, then setting it on fire when prints fail to adhere
Treating a failed print that looks like spaghetti as actual spaghetti and serving it for dinner
A really, really slow layer-by-layer death by golden crown, if you’re more patient than Viserys and your 3D printer is as angry as Khal Drogo
If Khal Drogo were a 3D printer, the gold a filament, and Viserys in the way of the build plate, this could be a fatal combination indeed. [Image: HBO]
Getting caught up in a cartoon-inspired scene in which a 3D printer, rather than an anvil, falls from above to squish you
Using actual poison as a material (in which case, kudos for pelletizing, extruding it into a filament, or developing a poison resin; our posthumous regards to your odd ingenuity) — may require ingesting the completed print
Using a trio of 3D printers as juggling equipment when you are not trained in juggling awkward, bulky objects
Attempting to treat your 3D printer as a yo-yo using a bungee cable
If a 3D printer fell on your head, cartoon-anvil style, it might disrupt not only your Baby Groot print job, but also your head. [Image: Animaniacs… and MS Paint]
As the highly successful Dumb Ways to Die campaign showed, people aren’t always interested in hearing standard warning messages about potentially dangerous behavior; looking to the absurd can help to instill a type of cautiousness in those who take trains — and those who 3D print at home (or in the shop or office). There are certain precautions to take while 3D printing, but for the most part desktop 3D printers are highly unlikely to lead to fatalities. Highly unlikely.
Fumes from certain materials can be harmful to users’ health, and electrical concerns should be addressed promptly by ensuring that only appropriate connections, wiring, etc. are used. Aside from cartoon- or Game of Thrones-like circumstances, weaponized 3D printers are especially unlikely to occur. Proper use of a 3D printer should be followed, according to a user’s manual, at all times of operation and in keeping with recommended usages. Ensure proper ventilation and regular monitoring of prints for best process results, and of course please be sure that any workshop area has appropriate detectors in place to sense any harmful fumes or smoke. In the meantime, let’s hope 3D printers can stop being the scapegoat for tragic events.
We wish you much 3D printing — in good health (and by making good choices)! Let us know your thoughts in the Death by 3D Printer forum at 3DPB.com.
Our sincerest condolences go out to the families, friends, and community of Roger and Valerie Morash, whose untimely deaths led to this recent absurd speculation in the media. We mean no disrespect to their memories and simply wish to point out the ridiculousness of sensationalizing headlines. A GoFundMe has been set up to help the Morash family with funeral costs.