Today, makers are able to produce a wide variety of products, from toys to household items, from broken hardware to toys.
However, even though it may seem like you can create anything from the comfort of your home thanks to the design flexibility and capabilities of 3D printing, it’s crucial to know what materials you’re working with to avoid toxic chemicals, especially if you’re printing anything that will come into food contact. Food safety is a priority.
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What is PLA?
A bioplastic printing substance called PLA, or polylactic acid, is made from natural resources like corn, tapioca, or potatoes.
Another organic acid that is crucial to our daily lives is lactic acid. Some well-known examples of the function of lactic acid are the painful muscles you experience after an excessively long athletic activity and the flavor of sour milk.
One of the most popular 3D printing filaments available today is PLA (Polylactic Acid), a bioplastic substance.
The plant-based plastic is well-liked for being food-safe material and providing food safety in general.
Some advantages of PLA filament include the fact that it doesn’t need a heated print bed and prints at a lower temperature than many 3D printing materials, such as ABS.
Since the substance is made of natural ingredients like sugarcane and corn starch, it is biodegradable, and most people believe it to be food-safe when there is food contact.
In this article, we address the query “Is PLA toxic to humans?” by examining the factors that affect the material’s food safety as well as food contact surfaces.
3D printing: what can we make
The connection between food and 3D printing has become stronger over the past ten years.
We witnessed it with the emergence of amazing food initiatives, like 3D-printed meat from Novameat and numerous chocolate projects like Flow, as well as NASA’s tests with printing food for astronauts. Is food safe there?
Even Barilla, a pasta manufacturer, created a pasta 3D printer to improve the pasta’s geometry.
In order to produce a range of foods using 3D printers, researchers are pushing the technology’s boundaries.
But the connection between 3D printing and food doesn’t end there, as additive manufacturing is also useful for printing a range of food industry accessories.
By using 3D printers, manufacturers can create stunning shapes and geometries, 3d printed gadgets, 3D print molds and prototypes, or work on finished products. They can also use them to make their processes more environmentally friendly. But what filament is safe for food?
Additive manufacturing for food
How do you make PLA food safe?
Everything is 3D printable, so if it’s feasible to print complex technological gadgets for the aerospace industry, it’s also likely to be feasible to produce everyday objects like cooking utensils using a 3D printer. You might want to make items just for kitchens.
No matter what project you’re working on, the materials you employ must be completely food safe if there will be any contact with food. In order to prevent food poisoning and toxic chemicals contact, it must first be food safe.
For another example, while using biocompatible materials for 3D printing in the medical field, you must ensure that they are completely food safe and won’t hurt it.
In many different industries, 3D printing is frequently used. Making classic food containers, as well as more individualized items with fantastic design work and a custom-made aspect, is actually a great solution.
The following are the major justifications for using food-safe 3D printing materials or a filament:
Expansion of bacteria
The last thing you want when 3D printing an item that will come into contact with food is the development of bacteria that could later contaminate you or anyone else.
You need a smooth material to prevent the growth of microorganisms.
Additionally, you must pay attention to the design, even if the thing is relatively smooth. In fact, food will promote the growth of bacteria if it can get stuck in the layers or tiny areas of your design.
Substances produced chemically during the printing process
You actually need a combination of heat and chemicals to create a 3D-printed object, so you need to be cautious about the technologies and materials you choose for your “food-safe” project, especially if the part will eventually come into contact with the bad food-safe coating.
If ingested, the toxic materials used in 3D printing could have negative effects on one’s health. It would be terrible to get sick from a coffee cup!
Materials with chemicals
Some materials are created using harmful chemicals in addition to 3D printing procedures. Given that the filament contains hazardous chemicals, ABS is full of toxic chemicals!
A study by the National Institute of Applied Sciences in Lyon, France, and the Illinois Institute of Technology found that some materials, such as ABS, had a high level of ultrafine particles. We do not advise you to utilize these kinds of particles because ingesting them could cause health issues.
When 3D printing a part that will come into contact with food, you actually have to take that into consideration.
READ ALSO: 3D printing armor: a complete guide
What is a food-safe material?
A substance that is regarded as safe for contact with food is known as a “food-safe substance.” This can apply to utensils, containers, and food packaging. Most nations have devised mechanisms for regulating which materials are used in circumstances with direct or indirect contact with food since most materials that come into contact with food will have at least some minute leaching into the food they touch (a process known as blooming).
Selecting appropriate materials
Be assured that it is entirely possible to 3D print food products safely; you simply need to be careful with the materials and 3D printing methods you use.
Be careful: utilizing a food-safe 3D printing material is fantastic, but if you need to combine your project’s parts, be sure to use a food-safe sealant as well. Here are some examples of materials for 3D printing that you can use to create objects that come into contact with food:
Even with 3D printing, ceramic is amazing for producing durable objects that are safe for food. Consider using ceramic to create the food-safe, watertight 3D-printed part you need!
- Without additions, PLA (Polylactic Acid)
The 3D-printing substance PLA is suitable for use with food. This substance is employed in the packaging process of plastic injection molding. It is the ideal material for 3D printing projects that won’t be subjected to heat or strong mechanical constraints.
However, PLA filament seems to be the best option if you want to use this biodegradable plastic to make small objects like cookie cutters.
- PET filament or Polyethylene Terephthalate
Plastic bottles and other traditional food containers are frequently made of polyethylene terephthalate. It is well known to be 100% food safe! The fact that this material may be completely recycled—often at an industrial level—is one of its key advantages.
To sum up, you may make anything you want using 3D printing, from tiny components to entire items, but you must only utilize materials that are safe for consumption. It will undoubtedly benefit both you and your clients!
A common bioplastic printing material called PLA (polylactic acid) is made from organic materials like corn and sugarcane. In addition to being one of the most widely used materials for 3D printing, PLA is frequently used to create shrink wrap, plastic bottles, and other traditional food containers, as well as product packaging and parts for medical devices.
You want to know how long the PLA biodegradation process lasts and how it exactly operates. Both have a strong reliance on the environment.
Heat, moisture, and microorganisms are the three essential components for PLA to degrade visibly within a year.
PLA decomposes most effectively in hot conditions with lots of microbes. This might include a compost pile, but it needs to have a temperature of 140 °C (284 °F), which is the transition temperature for PLA glass.
Under these circumstances, it will take roughly six months for obvious cracks and decay signals to appear if you bury the 3D object deep within the compost pile.
PLA, however, takes a while to break down at room temperature and normal pressure. Sunlight cannot speed up this process. UV light only results in the material losing its color and becoming pale, as one would expect from other plastics, without producing a corresponding heat effect.
Depending on your point of view and the purpose for which you intend to use your 3D item, the gradual process of biodegradation may be beneficial or harmful. Biodegradable materials are suitable in accordance with the ideals of sustainable development since they eventually revert to nature.
This is helpful, for instance, in circumstances where an object is supposed to vanish after a given amount of time, like during bone surgery.
However, the bulk of printed goods, including most 3D prints, ought to endure unmodified. As previously indicated, a number of variables that are not typical of the environment must exist for PLA to biodegrade. Additionally, if you store your PLA prints in a dry, cool environment, you won’t need to worry.
A group of scientists did a thorough investigation of the safety of PLA (polylactic acid) in food in 1995. They came to the conclusion that PLA is safe for contact with food and surfaces that come into contact with food.
However, other than a minor quantity of lactic acid that it leaches into the food it comes into contact with, their investigation discovered no toxicological problems with PLA.
There is no need to worry about lactic acid intake because it is a naturally occurring acid that can be found in many common meals and breast milk.
So, the manufacturing process of the filament, where colors and other features can be added to change the functioning of the plastic, is what you need to be on the lookout for.
To offer some PLA filaments specific qualities like color and strength, such as PLA+ or soft PLA, chemical additives are frequently added.
These chemicals have the potential to be harmful, quickly migrate into food, and occasionally have an adverse impact on health.
Is PLA food safe?
Although this study deemed PLA to be food-safe, it did not directly address PLA used in 3D printing.
Details are above, but here is the short answer: yes! Anyway, please think about:
The object must be as smooth as possible.
Use only PLA filaments without additives.
Use a stainless steel nozzle.
The nozzle must be completely clean.
PLA is not suitable for the dishwasher.
Coating with food-safe epoxy resin for frequent use.
Is PLA food safe for cookie cutters?
One of the more popular uses for 3D-printed culinary products is cookie cutters. There are concerns associated with using them, even though they are thought to be safer than, for example, a 3D-printed fork or cup because the food only comes into contact with the dough briefly before being cooked.
Add food-grade epoxy glue or other food-safe coatings to them or other 3D-printed goods to make them safer.
For use on countertops, cutting boards, and other surfaces that will come into contact with food, a number of food-safe epoxy resin solutions are available on the market. ArtResin is a common option for this kind of application.
What additional food-grade materials are suitable for 3D printing?
Other print materials are available that can be employed in 3D printing to produce future things that will come into food contact.
Ceramics have proven to be especially well suited for this function since they can be utilized to make products that are both durable and food-safe materials utilizing 3D printing. Without using toxic particles, ceramics can be 3D printed into cups, plates, or even saucers.
It is also OK to use PET filament or polyethylene terephthalate. Plastic bottles and other traditional food containers are frequently produced using polyethylene terephthalate as a raw material.
It is well known that it is completely safe for food. One of this material’s key benefits is that it can degrade if compared with other classic food containers.