With the growing popularity of 3D printing, the concept of creating food-related objects using 3D printers has piqued the curiosity of many enthusiasts. For example, there is now a growing niche market for 3D printed cookie cutters!
Food safe filament refers to a type of 3D printing filament that has been specifically formulated to meet certain safety standards and regulations for food contact.
However, it’s essential to understand that the safety of a 3D printed object for food contact goes beyond using food-safe filament. This article delves into the distinction between food-safe filament and food-safe prints, highlighting why filament safety alone does not guarantee a food-safe final product. We also offer educational guidance on ensuring food safety.
The Validation of Food-Safe Filament
When it comes to the validation of food-safe filament, one of the important regulatory frameworks that governs this area in the European Union is Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004. This regulation establishes general safety requirements for materials and articles intended to come into contact with food. In this US, it is the Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
EU Regulation No 1935/2004 sets out the principles and requirements to ensure that materials and articles intended for food contact do not pose a risk to human health or bring about any unacceptable changes in the composition or quality of food. The regulation applies to all stages of the manufacturing process, including the production of 3D printer filaments.
To comply with EU Regulation No 1935/2004, filament manufacturers must conduct migration testing. Migration refers to the transfer of substances from the filament to the food. The migration testing evaluates the potential transfer of substances from the filament into food and determines whether they comply with specific migration limits set for various substances.
Furthermore, manufacturers must also consider other relevant regulations and directives that pertain to specific substances used in the filament production, such as Regulation (EC) No 10/2011 on plastic materials and articles intended to come into contact with food. This regulation establishes specific rules for different types of plastics, including requirements for certain substances and restrictions on their use.
It is important to note that compliance with EU Regulation No 1935/2004 and other relevant regulations ensures that the filament itself meets the safety requirements for food contact.
Which 3D Printing Materials are ‘Food Safe’?
Filamentive declares that the version of its filament suitable for 3D printing, complies with the compositional requirements according to EU Regulation No 10/2011 on plastic materials and articles intended to come into contact with food.
The conditions and limitations of use for base polymers are defined are:
“May be used with all food types, with the exception of foods containing greater than 15% alcohol, at temperatures up to 100°C followed by long-term storage at ambient temperature or below.”
|Material / Product||Colour(s)|
|(r)PLA||Black, White, Dark Grey, Light Grey, Silver, Red, Dark Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange|
|PLA Cosmic||Cosmic Blue, Cosmic Red, Cosmic Gold, Cosmic Silver, Cosmic Grey|
|(r)PETg||Black, Transparent, Dark Blue|
Why Food Safe Filament does not mean Food Safe 3D-print
It’s important to note that the food-safe classification of filament pertains to the filament itself, not the 3D printed object it produces. The safety validation does not automatically extend to the final printed product due to the inherent differences between the filament manufacturing process and the 3D printing process.
Because 3D printing involves melting and extruding the filament through a heated nozzle, layer by layer, to create a three-dimensional object. This process introduces various factors that can impact the safety of the printed object.
Printer Settings: The temperature and pressure settings used during the printing process can influence the chemical composition of the filament. High temperatures can cause filament degradation, leading to the release of potentially harmful substances.
Design Considerations: As mentioned in a Prusa3d.com article, 3D prints, “…will never be food-grade for one simple reason – FFF 3D printing produces objects containing gaps between the layers. These gaps can become the breeding ground for the growth of bacteria and fungi, which can cause an illness”.
Ensuring Food Safety with 3D Prints
To ensure that a 3D printed object is food-safe, several steps must be taken:
Selecting the Right Filament: Begin by choosing a filament specifically labelled as food-safe. Look for filaments that have undergone testing and comply with relevant food safety standards.
Adhering to Printer Guidelines: Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for temperature, pressure, and other printer settings to minimise the risk of filament degradation or contamination during the printing process.
Post-Processing and Finishing: Properly clean and finish the 3D printed object after printing. This may involve removing support structures, sanding rough surfaces, and thoroughly washing the object to ensure its cleanliness.
Designing with Food Safety in Mind: Consider the design of the object and strive for surfaces that are easy to clean and minimise potential bacterial harborage areas.
Towards 3D Printing Food Safety
While using food-safe filament is an important step in the direction of food safety, it is not the sole determining factor. The 3D printing process introduces complexities that can impact the safety of the final printed object. To ensure food safety, it’s crucial to consider printer settings, filament quality, design aspects, and post-processing techniques. By adhering to best practices and exercising caution, it is possible to create food-safe 3D printed objects for a variety of applications.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog post is for educational purposes only. It is not intended as professional advice. For specific inquiries or concerns regarding food safety and 3D printing, it is always recommended to consult with an independent professional or relevant authorities.