Additive manufacturing - also called 3D printing - is increasingly gaining importance in the recent years. This technology is not only used for producing prototypes, but also more and more for the serial production of industrial components.
Primarily, workplace measurements were carried out by sampling the respirable and inhalable particle fraction according to TRGS 402. Working areas in ten companies where powder-bed processes were used were included in this investigation. Metallic alloy as well as polymer powders were processed in these enterprises. Depending on the used material, metals like nickel and cobalt or volatile organic compounds were measured, respectively. Exceedings of the Occupational Exposure Limit (OEL) for the respirable particle fraction were found only in few cases when working with polymer powders. All results for the inhalable particle fraction were below the OEL.
Regarding the constituents of metal alloys, exceeded OELs were found during direct use of high alloy metal powders under inadequate ventilation conditions and especially, when disruptions of the standard operation procedures occurred. In contrast to nickel and cobalt containing materials, handling of aluminium- and titanium-based alloys can be regarded as relatively uncritical.
Based on measured workers' exposure, general recommendations for good practice have been derived for enterprises using additive manufacturing with powder-bed processes to ensure safe work with hazardous substances.
Due to the very dynamic development of additive manufacturing processes using powder materials, the statements of this investigation refer to the processes and materials currently in use. A thorough observation of the further developments is recommended, so that occupational safety and health, as well as possibly required protective measures, can keep pace with it.
Unit 4.4 "Measurement of Hazardous Substances"