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How Safe is 3D Pen Plastic?

Jul 28,2023 | 3D4Create

One of the major appeals of 3D pens is the ability to draw and sculpt with plastic in mid-air. But this also raises questions around how hazardous these 3D pen plastics may be. 

Is melting and extruding plastic filament actually safe, especially for kids? This guide will examine the health impact of common 3D pen plastic materials and best usage practices to keep risks low.

I. Common 3D Pen Filament Materials

The majority of 3D pen plastic filaments available today are derived from non-toxic thermoplastics considered safe for consumer contact and use. Here are some of the most popular:

  • PLA - Made from plant-based sources like corn starch, polylactic acid plastic is biodegradable and emits low fumes when heated. PLA is suitable for food containers confirming its non-toxic properties. 
  • PCL - Polycaprolactone is a biodegradable polyester plastic derived from plant oils and used for 3D pen filaments. With a low 60°C melting point, PCL extrudes from pens at lower temps and stays malleable after solidifying for easy reshaping. Click here to read more about PCL 3D pens.
  • ABS - Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene plastic has been used safely for Lego bricks and numerous household items. ABS does produce some unpleasant fumes when melted.
  • PETG - Derived from polyethylene terephthalate, PETG filaments are FDA approved for food contact. The material has excellent chemical resistance.
  • TPU - Thermoplastic polyurethane is very flexible and commonly used for products needing elasticity. Water-based TPU filaments are non-hazardous.

II. Potential Hazards from Heated 3D Pen Plastics

While the raw 3D pen plastic filament itself may be safe, heating certain plastics to high temperatures can generate irritating or potentially toxic fumes.

ABS, nylon, and PVC tend to produce the largest amounts of ultrafine particles (UFPs) when melted. Even PLA emits some volatile organic compounds when heated.

Always use 3D pens in a well-ventilated room or operate next to an open window. Avoid constant exposure to melting plastic fumes. Sensitive individuals may choose to wear a filtering face mask when 3D pen printing.

III. Dangers of Chemical Solvents for Cleaning

Some 3D pen users report using acetone or other strong solvents to clean and remove stuck filament. However, these chemical cleaners present serious health hazards including respiratory irritation, headaches, or nausea.

Stick to gentler, water-based cleaners formulated to break down plastic residue safely. Isopropyl alcohol wipes can also aid cleaning. Never use harsh chemicals like paint thinner or acetone which release toxic compounds.


IV. Avoid Accidentally Ingesting Plastic

A key safety rule when working with any 3D pen is to never put melted plastic or printed pieces into your mouth. While plastic filaments may not be overtly toxic, accidentally swallowing fragments could still cause internal injury or choking.

Closely supervise young children using 3D pens to ensure they don't put melted plastic near their mouths or touch printed objects to their faces before the plastic fully hardens. Proper adult guidance is crucial.


V. Dispose of Plastic Filament Properly

Follow local municipal regulations when disposing of plastic waste from 3D pen use. Never burn plastic scraps, as this can release toxic emissions. Instead, try to recycle spare filament spools and failed prints when possible.

PLA plastic in particular is compostable when sent to an industrial composting facility. Defective prints can be melted and reformed into new filament as well. Dispose of 3D pen plastics responsibly to avoid environmental contamination.

PLA Recycling: Can PLA 3D Printer Filament be Recycled?

Recycle is a good way to dispose PLA filament (photo: wevolver)

VI. Conclusion

Most standard 3D pen filaments like PLA, PETG, and ABS present low health risks with responsible use. But take precautions through proper ventilation, avoiding chemical cleaners, keeping plastic away from mouths, and responsible disposal. 

To ensure the kids' safety, 3D4Create offers a wide range of non-toxic PLA and PCL filaments to refill your 3D pens. Click the link below to find out more information!




1. Do 3D pen plastics give off toxic fumes?

PLA and ABS can emit mild fumes during extrusion. Work in a ventilated area. PCL has minimal odor.

2. Can the melted plastic from a 3D pen cause burns?

Yes, melted plastic over 150°C can cause skin burns. Avoid contact and allow creations to fully cool before handling.

3. Are there any cases where 3D pen plastics pose health risks?

Those with respiratory issues may react to fumes. Ingestion could be hazardous. Supervise children and follow safety guidelines.

See Also

Is 3D Pen Safe for Kids? 3 Essential Safety Tips for Parents

The 5 Best 3D Pens for 2023 - Reviews by 3D4Create

5 Key Things You Should Look For When Buying a 3D Pen