The move from solvent to aqueous inks has reduced some hazardous emissions, but air quality issues can remain for commercial and office printing, which might require printing fume control.
Controlling the air quality in a printing environment can be challenging, especially when temperature and humidity levels have to be controlled at the same time. Professional air purifiers offer, however, offer an effective and cost efficient solution.
The wide variety of printing processes and technologies used in commercial and office printing release a broad range of contaminants into the working environment.
Continuous digital ink-jet printing releases methyl-ethyl ketone and propanol which can cause abnormal heart rhythm and rate and can affect the liver and kidneys on long term exposure. This widespread printing technology used in the packaging and manufacturing sectors benefits greatly from fume control with standalone printing fume control units such as the IQAir GCX VOC air cleaners.
Adhesive laminating emits isocyanate prepolymers which can cause irritation of the airways and lungs which can result in occupational asthma for print workers.
The fumes released from UV lamps for photo processing, UV curing and high speed printing – ink misting can cause irritation of respiratory as well as severe headaches and nausea.
UV and infra-red curable inks, varnishes and lacquers used in UV curable flatbed inkjet printers cause issues when the material transforms from liquid to solid – releasing gases and reactive acrylates and methacrylates. Printing fume control is as important now as it ever has been.
Laser printers, ubiquitous in offices, emit ultra fine particulates which although they cannot be seen, can be inhaled without printing fume control. These ultra fine particulates (UFPs) can be either carbon or metallic based, and it is the fact that they can be inhaled deep into the lung which causes concern.
Although commonly presumed to arise from the toner in each printer – recent research has shown that the high temperature fixing process is the source of this contamination. Filtration on the unit itself doesn’t work, so an ideal approach is to implement printing fume control in the area each printer is operating through the use of high performance air filtration units. This cleans the air continuously in the vicinity, avoiding the UFPs travelling throughout the larger office space.
3D printing has enormous benefits across many industries, from rapid prototyping to low volume production in a huge variety of forms.
As an emerging technology, the potential hazards are yet to be fully understood; the main concern centres on the invisible ultrafine particle pollution it is already known to be emitting. Print fume control by the use of high performance standalone air filtration units will capture and retain these particles which are the same size as viruses.
The filament materials used in 3D printers; ABS, nylon, HIPS, and HDPE are all on the Toxic Substances registry. Heating these materials to melt onto the 3D print causes the release of toxic vapours which have to be controlled to avoid inhalation.
Although thermal decomposition products from ABS processing have been shown to have toxic effects in mice and rats, the effects on humans still to be determined.