Food Safe 3D Printing Guide - KM3D
3D printing technology offers numerous creative ways to create custom parts for food-related applications.
When you think of the 3D printing process for food-safe materials also called food safe 3D printing, you immediately start thinking of food safety hazards posed by food containers.
As such, your 3D printed parts must be food grade, meaning they are suitable for human use or can come into contact with food without toxic chemicals passing into the food.
For a long time, plastic has proved a darling martial for food handling materials and container manufacturers. Why? Because it is cheap, water-tight, and can be manufactured in large quantities.
However, these qualities may not be achievable with the 3D printing of food containers. 3D printing filaments come in different types and forms, and most contain toxic chemicals or harmful substances.
You need to be extra careful to pick food-safe filaments for your 3D additive manufacturing of food-safe containers.
Are 3D Printed Things Food Safe?
3D printed things can either be food-safe or not. The food safety of 3D printed parts depends entirely on the plastic filament used.
Ordinarily, plastics cause long-term health issues, and kitchen utensil manufacturers remain keen to ensure the use of food-safe material whenever they print 3D items that come in direct contact with food.
FDA and EU issue Food grade certification for food-safe materials safe for food contact. Also, food-grade remains safe for human consumption and poses no food safety hazard.
It’s essential to figure out what food safety means in the context of 3D-printed materials or objects. Food safe items are the ones that meet the safety standards for food-safe 3D printing.
Essentially, these items can directly contact food without causing contamination that can be a health risk.
Food Contact Surface
The food contact surface is any area of the food contact items that directly contact food. Thus, they are designed to cope with the environment of use. More so, exposure to the rigorous cleaning procedure.
Why Use Food Safe 3D Printing Materials?
One method of ensuring your 3D- printed material is food-safe is to ensure it is free from bacteria growth. Utensils contaminated with bacteria growth cause serious health issues when they come into contact with the food you’re consuming.
You can avoid bacteria growth in your food containers by using containers with smooth surfaces. Smooth surfaces are a deterrent to bacteria growth.
Also, when 3D printing food utensils, ensure the design doesn’t allow for food to get stuck in the container. Thus, you eliminate bacteria growth risks.
Food Safe Coatings and Sealant
Ensure the food contact surface remains safe for use by applying a food-safe coating on it. Additionally, food-safe coatings eliminate chances of toxic particle migration, and bacteria build up on the food container.
More importantly, you need to appreciate that food-safe sealant, a type of silicone sealant with very minimal toxicity, comes in handy to provide your food-safe material needs.
The sealants, designed for food contact applications, are used in refrigerators.
Often, 3D printing materials have low heat deflection temperatures, meaning 3D printed parts can turn brittle and crack if subjected to truly high temperatures.
As such, you need to confirm the 3D printed material remains dishwasher safe. Equally, verify if the material requires a specific dishwasher temperature and adjust accordingly.
Chemical Products From the 3D Printing Process
Nobody expects to be poisoned while using a 3D printed Cup for drinking tea or a plate when eating their favorite food. Imagine what may happen to you if you use 3D-printed utensils not considered food safe.
The 3D printing process produces harmful chemicals that can harm the human body. Toxic particles produced from the process are reason enough why you need to be wary of the technology and the printing materials used.
Chemicals Found in Plastic Materials
Most 3D printing plastic filaments such as ABS plastic have high toxic chemicals. Purposely pick food-safe 3d printing material whenever printing objects that will come in contact with food.
The toxic filaments produce harmful particles during the printing process. If you ingest it, you may suffer serious health problems.
Food Contact Time
Always try to reduce the food contact time while using 3D printed food utensils. The 3D printing material may not be a food-safe filament and the only remedy to minimize contamination risk is not to let food stay in it for a long time.
Is 3D Printing PLA Food Safe?
PLA plastic filament is an eco-friendly and biodegradable 3D printing material. Manufacturers produce it by processing corn or sugarcane.
PLA remains one of the most popular plastic filaments used in 3D printing food-safe materials. PLA consists of biodegradable food items like corn, making it fit for use in 3D printing kitchen utensils.
Think of it, PLA remains cheap, can be printed in low temperatures of 190-220 degrees Celsius, and doesn’t need a heated bed for printing. Conditions that make it suitable for 3D printing food-safe objects.
However, if the printers contain lead brass nozzles, the intoxication of PLA filaments may happen during 3D printing as lead contains toxic material.
Furthermore, PLA is excellent for food-safe 3D printing applications for materials with a short contact period. An example of materials with short contact time is the Cookie cutter.
Is 3D Printing Resin Food Safe?
Resin 3D printing refers to the additive manufacturing process that cures liquid photopolymer. It fixes the liquid polymer layer by layer into a solid material. Resin is a liquid solution made of different monomers and oligomers.
The resin production process includes the addition of colorants and additives that impacts the food safety element during 3D printing of kitchen items. Thus, it renders a non-food safe solution for food utensils.
Furthermore, the resin is nonsafe for printed parts to contact food as toxic materials move from SLA printed parts. Interestingly, some resin used in dental and other medical applications enjoys approval as biocompatible is not FDA compliant.
The resin may be approved for a specific use but not for the production of food-contact items.
What Type of 3D Printing Filament Is Food Safe?
PLA filament is naturally food-safe as it contains typical food like corn and sugarcane. Also, it’s compostable.
Manufacturers create containers coming into contact with food using PLA filament because it is food safe.
However, it would help if you kept in mind that to enhance PLA filament features such as strength and color, manufacturers use additives that may comprise food safety aspects of PLA.
Therefore, you need to check the material chemical properties of the filament to determine food safety.
A standard household plastic, polypropylene (PP), revered for its resistance to chemicals, transparency, and fatigue, is a food-safe plastic.
It is perfect for manufacturing food containers or other household items that may directly contact food.
More importantly, it remains a food and microwave-safe material.
One of the universally accepted food-safe plastic materials is PET. It enjoys recyclable qualities and is widely used for packing food and non-food items.
Its popularity comes from its safety qualities, strength, shatterproof, and recyclability.
PETG enhances PET and remains a standard plastic filament used for packaging food. Significantly, PETG is a food-safe plastic filament known for its recyclability.
Its applications in the food industry range from manufacturing food containers to producing liquid beverage bottles.
Still, its vacuum is formable and can resist unprecedented pressure without warping or cracking.
High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS)
High Impact Polystyrene, HIPS is an FDA-approved grade food packaging material. Also, it enjoys rigid qualities making it a perfect fit for food packaging.
HIPS plastic application ranges from the manufacturing of cookie trays to bakery trays.
Additionally, HIPS filament has moisture barrier properties. Because it quickly resists moisture, it remains suitable for products with a short shelf life.
Natural Grade Nylon 6
Not all Nylon has an acceptable purity level for use in food grades. Therefore, using non-food grade type can pose serious health issues.
Importantly, Nylon that contains no additives is a food-grade plastic. Meaning it is usable in making containers or kitchen utensils expected to contact food.
Can You Drink Out of 3D Printed Cups?
The 3D printing process emits toxic fumes from plastic filaments. The composition of most plastic filaments used in 3D printing makes them unsafe for producing items that come into contact with food.
As such, if you 3D print a cup, you need to use material certified as food safe. For example, you can choose PLA filament to 3D print your mug and use the cup for drinking coffee.
However, you need to be cautious as PLA is a soft material that can’t withstand very high temperatures; otherwise, it will melt. Still, avoid putting PLA 3D printed cups or kitchen utensils in dishwater.
Notably, ABS plastic filament remains a more potent material than PLA, but it is not FDA food certified. So, please don’t use it as it’s not a food-safe material.
3D printing technology provides you with a wide range of applications in different industries. The food industry is not left behind.
You can 3D print numerous food containers, including liquid beverage containers and food packages. 3D printing plastics comprise toxic chemical substances in their composition.
Always use food-safe plastic filaments to 3D print any kitchen utensil or item that comes into direct contact with food to avoid contamination leading to health hazards.