Some Really Important Aspects Of Food Safe 3D Printing

20 Mar

Some Really Important Aspects Of Food Safe 3D Printing


For some, a kitchen full of all kinds of eatables is no less than a heaven. Keep chomping whatever you wish, without any concern about the elements to end.

And this very important need of people has been kept track of by the 3D printing industry too.

Right from the solid kitchen utensils to the scrumptious eatables- people buy 3D printers to print almost each and every element of their kitchen.

And thus, we could say- 3D printers are not just limited to the study rooms in the house of people. Rather, these have taken a step forward to reach the kitchen and now have their utter influence inside this delicious room.

What do desktop 3D printers really use to print? Printing filaments such as ABS, PLA or PETG etc.

And one question that always haunts the minds of people is- ‘Are These Objects Safe Enough To Work With Our Food?’

Before we move on to learn anything else, let us talk about yet another delicious fact.

3D printing has an application known as 3D food printing, where you could design and print absolutely lip-smacking eatables such as pizzas and croquettes etc. These require only a final cooking touch, while some others (such as chocolates) emerge ready-to-eat right from the 3D printers.

Having known the delicious side, let us see an another one too.

The question is still the same- ‘Do These 3D Printed Products Fulfill the Food-Safety Norms For The Human Beings?’

Let us try to derive the answers from some facts about food 3D printing:

1.   Bacteria Buildup Is Inevitable:

Whether you use a DIY 3D Printer Kit or a fully assembled 3D printer, the bacterial buildup is very, very difficult to resist.

Why? Because, no matter how smooth your prints tend to be, there will always be some cracks and spaces which serve as living lodges for these microorganisms.

Therefore, it might be a good idea to print disposables for food, but for reusable elements, you really need to ponder over the process.

2.   3D Printing Materials Might Contain Toxic Chemicals:

For instance, use of ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) is almost completely forbidden to print food-related products. It will normally have toxic chemicals which contaminate your food, and in turn, your body.

PLA (Polylactic acid), which is made up of corn starch, is generally considered safe in the aspect. However, you might meet manufacturers which mix toxic colors and adulterants etc. with PLA, making it as harmful as ABS and even more.

As a precaution, get filaments from some reliable sources such as ‘3D Printers Online Store’.

3.   Sealants Could Seal The Bacterial Buildup:

If you seal your 3D printed objects with some food-safe sealant or epoxy, these would fill-up the hiding units of microorganisms. For instance, if you use a Delta 3D printer to print with PLA, Polyurethane is one of the effective sealant options for the filaments.

Also, do not allow the containers to come in direct contact with raw eggs or meat. This triggers the bacterial growth on them.

4.   For Food-Related Printing, You could Always Buy Food-Safe Filaments:

Search the various online and offline stores. You could always get filaments that come with ‘food-grade certified’ mark.

For instance, ‘PP Plastic’ from ‘German RepRap’ and ‘HDglass’ from ‘FormFutura’ are highly celebrated food-grade plastics.

Also, you could check the material safety data sheet (MSDS) that ensures the plastics being food-safe or not.

5.   3D Printing Emits Ultrafine Particles:

As per a research by ‘Illinois Institute of Technology’ in 2015, both ABS and PLA filaments emit Ultrafine Particles or UFPs.

These fine particles rest on the surface of printed objects and have high chances of being inhaled or swallowed, leading to health troubles.

Therefore, use your desktop 3d printers to print the objects in a well-ventilated room and let your eatables stay away from the room.

6.   Dishwasher Is Not A Safe Option:

If you think that you could solve the bacterial buildup trouble by merely washing the objects in a dishwasher, you have taken it wrong. You cannot remove the microorganisms entirely.

Rather, if you use extra-warm water, the objects made of PLA might get deformed and tend to crack. Therefore, use of dishwasher with hot water goes totally out of question.

7.   Brass Nozzles Might Contain Hazardous Lead:

For your desktop 3D printer, you need to check the kind of nozzle it contains.

Some of the brass nozzles are manufactured using the dangerous metal lead, which is highly unsafe for food 3D printing.

Look for the kind of nozzle you employ. If it signifies dangers to your food-related printing, better get it changed.

8.   Note the Contact Time of the Objects:

This is one great factor that influences the contamination of materials. For instance, there are 3D printed objects such as knives and cookie cutters etc. which do not remain in contact with the food for too long.

Against this, there are some other ones such as containers and coffee cups that remain in a longer contact with the food.

As a precautionary measure, you could use ABS etc. for short-contact-period articles and PLA or PETG etc. where the food stays longer.

Food 3D printing is one of the greatest applications of the technology that is set to rule the traditional methods in the near future.

However, essential is, keeping track of the harms and the challenges that are associated with the applications, so that it turns to be a fruitful outcome for the health of people.  

image credits : Foodink

Chris Joel (Author)

Some Really Important Aspects Of Food Safe 3D Printing
Chris Joel is a writer at 3D Printers Online Store. Hailing from South London, he has a degree in English Literature. His interests include the application of 3D printing technology to art and its popularization.