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3D printing carries an enormous potential for industry and is increasingly establishing itself as a production technology. The Federal Environment Agency has now investigated the opportunities and risks to health and the environment in a study.

There are always two sides to a coin: 3D printing offers industry significant advantages , but also causes problems, such as high energy consumption and pollutants including fine dust and nano particles in indoor spaces. This leads to health risks in industry, especially for workers in big companies, according to the study by the Federal Environment Agency . The environment could also suffer as a result of extraction of raw materials and the production of printing materials. In addition, some of these materials do not lend themselves to recycling.

There are some positives, however. More efficient processes in terms of consumption of raw materials mean that large quantities of those materials could be saved, in the production of very specific shapes such as prosthetics, for example, which will protect the environment. In the area of lightweight engineering, lighter vehicle and aircraft parts will reduce fuel consumption. In addition, 3D printing will facilitate a longer service life for tools and products, as spare parts can be manufactured easily.

Among its recommendations for industry, the Federal Environment Agency identifies automation of as many of the process stages in this area as possible, in order to minimize exposure especially in preparation and follow-up work. Employees should also be kept in the picture and trained as appropriate. Ultimately, the discussion is nothing new: when laser printers were introduced, there was also a long discussion about possible health risks. Thanks to the statutory requirements, modern models now have only low ozone values , reports the Federal Environment Agency. Fine dust and volatile organic substances have also been reduced significantly.