First let us understand what does it mean when we say food safety with 3D printing.
When you print utensils or items that come in contact with food, it is essential to consider the food safety measures. It helps avoid the food getting contaminated with toxic chemicals and substances when the printed part is over-exposed to food items.
There are various filaments and materials certified as food safe and can be used for 3D printing. The printing processes can include stereolithography (SLA), selective laser sintering (SLS), and fused deposition modeling (FDM).
Tips to minimizing the risks when using 3D printing tools
If 3D printing is used on plates and other kitchen utensils, it has to be safe as it comes in contact with food.
You have to think is PLA food or ABS food safe? We have mentioned here a few points that minimize the risk of using 3D printing in food utility items.
Use Food Safe Coating
No matter how hard you try to clean the 3D printed dishes and other food containers, bacterial might build up. And it is one of the major concerns/risks with 3D printed food safety. Even the smoothest looking dish can have small cracks and spaces that aren’t clearly visible to the eye. These can be homes for bacteria and germs. Therefore, it is always recommended to use food safe coating materials.
Various food-safe filaments are available in the market today. To check if the filament is food safe, look for material safety data sheet (MSDS) attached to it. This sheet gives a break-up of the chemical properties, along with indications if the material is FDA approved or food safe. You can also verify if the manufacture is food-grade certified. This is highlighted on the packaging as well.
Filaments with Chemicals Present in Them
Amongst the different filaments available today, the one which is considered to be unsafe, especially for printing items that would come in contact with food, is ABS. This filament contains toxic chemicals that can contaminate your food.
PLA is considered to be food safe as it is natural and made of corn starch. However, one still has to be careful while selecting PLA filaments as some manufactures tend to add additives for color and strength that may not be food safe.
Usually, 3D printing materials have low heat resistance and they have the tendency to break, deform, or warp if exposed to high temperature for a long duration. It means if you wish to clean a 3D printed utensil in hot water or dishwasher, it may get damaged with time. Therefore, ensure to check for specifications related to washing temperature and if the material of your utensil is dishwasher safe.
It is advisable to clean your 3D printed items with lukewarm water along with a very mild anti-bacterial detergent. This will help remove surface bacteria is any.
Brass Nozzles may Contain Lead
The extruders in FDM printers are made of different materials such as steel, brass, aluminum, etc. Brass extruders may contain lead which can be harmful for humans. Stainless steel is considered to be food safe. Therefore, check for details of the manufacturer and the equipment they use.
Reduced Food Contact Time
Food exposed to 3D printer items for a longer period can be harmful. Therefore, try to limit the food contact time with such utensils. The other best option is to only use the 3D filament materials that are food-safe or purchase from manufacturers that are certified for food safety.
We discussed about various points related to materials and food safety aspects associated with it. However, we also understand that it is difficult to make a 3D printing 100% food-safe. But that doesn’t mean you should not be careful about the materials that you use or check the manufacturers if they are food-grade certified.
At filaments.ca, we carry a wide range of ABS and PLA filaments in Canada. We also have top-quality metal filaments and TPE filaments to meet the varied needs. Feel free to browse our products and purchase anything that fits your needs.