What is PLA food?
Polylactic acid or PLA is a bioplastic material from which natural materials such as maize, tapioca and potatoes are printed. Therefore, you might assume it is safe, as it comes regularly from things we eat. But is that the truth? Is PLA food safe?
A team of specialists from James Madison University (JMU) has undertaken a PLA test to assess the safety of PLA under different conditions. They tested PLA at different temperatures and times with common food ingredients.
The scientists found that, according to the JMU 3SPACE lesson, “PLA is generally recognized in contact with food as safe (GRAS).”
What are the toxic materials used in PLA?
PLA is likely to be toxic if it is absorbed into the skin or eyes, such as steam or liquid, as most plastics (i.e. during manufacturing processes). Follow instructions for handling molten polymer in particular carefully and closely.
A recent paper on the emissions of Ultrafine Particle (UFP) from commercial 3D printers using ABS and PLA feedstock has been published by researchers from the Illinois Institute of Technology. Toxic materials included in PLA are:
1. Printing process chemical products
3D printed objects need a heat-chemical mixture for production. This is why the technologies and materials used in 3D printing your object should be particularly careful.
This is particularly true if in the future the finished 3D object is in contact with food. Ingested by humans can cause health effects of toxic particles produced during the 3D printing process.
2. During printing process contamination
However, there are warnings still that the hot end of 3D printers can contaminate PLA.
The strong mix of chemicals and heat used in PLA is health-dangerous. An exception are nozzles made of stainless steel. In general, ABS and PLA desktop 3D printers emit a large number of ultra-fine particles.
These particles may be on your printed object’s surface. Excessive inhalation or swallowing can have harmful effects on your health.
3. Toxic particles released during printing
Accorder printer using ABS and PLA plastic are “higher emitters” of ultra-fine particles in the 2013 Illinois Institute of Technology and the French National Institute of Applied Sciences (UFPs). These particles can be present on your printing surface, and excessive inhalation or ingestion of such UFPs can cause adverse health consequences.
What are the risks of food safety in 3d printing?
There are many risks, some of which are listed here:
1. Dangerous PLA additives
PLA is colored, meaning that it contains additional additives which optimize both its color and strength. So you should only consider natural and untreated PLA as a printed material if you want to print products that come in contact with food. Check your safety data sheet to find out if your PLA is unprocessed PLA.
This enables the chemical properties and approval by FDA of your printed material to be determined and is the easiest way to determine food safety.
2. Bacterial growth
You definitely want to prevent bacteria from growing, which may potentially contaminate you or others, if you print a 3D object that physically touches food.
A smooth material is needed to prevent the growth of bacteria. Everything should still take care of the design even if it has a smooth surface.
If the food could be blocked into small sharp-edged parts or even into the object’s layers, bacterial development is encouraged.
3. It’s not safe for washing dishes
Okay, so if your print contains an accumulation of bacteria, you can simply wash it right? Not that quickly… It may become deformed and distorted with time if it is washed into hot water or with a dishwasher. PLA is hotter and certainly not safe to wash (it could even ruin your dishwasher).
4. Chemicals in the materials directly
Some 3D printing materials also have toxic chemicals.
This is particularly true for ABS filament, for instance, which makes it particularly unsafe. ABS contains a high proportion of ultra-fine particles that could result in a human intake of health problems. You should not use ABS in the production of kitchen utensils, therefore.
5. Some brass nozzle contain lead
3D printing device Extracting brass may contain plum, and some bad health problems may arise from contamination. It is unclear just how much lead is in the brass and whether or not a large amount of lead from the dust is transferred during the printing process. Some seem to think it is an enormous problem, while others claim that the level of lead to the final product is totally insignificant.
7 tips to minimize risk of PLA food
Let’s see how you can minimize the risk
1. Use a safe food sealant to prevent the development of bacteria
The stitching of a printed food safety epoxy or sealant covers the cracks that bacteria may be collected. For PLA, Polyurethane is recommended in 3D Printing industry which is located in a home improvement shop. Alternative epoxy coatings of food grade are listed. We would also advise you to avoid contacting your object with raw meat or eggs that are more likely to grow harmful bacteria.
2. Production of chemicals and Process
PLA itself is made from cornstarch, which makes this food safer and biodegradable.
Different producers add different levels of non-organic additional additives to the filament to change the characteristics – color, strength, smell, etc. You want to keep an eye on chemical characteristics.
3D printers may also emit some ultra-fine particles which, if injected, may be harmful to your health. During fining and washing, you should be able to fix it.
These additives can significantly reduce their food safety qualities, so it is best to examine the additives with each manufacturer before you buy your filament.
3. Purchase a safe food filament
KeyTech introduced the first Food Safe PLA last December, offering the same heat and impact resistance as ABS. It is also very flexible and does not easily break. Stefano Corinaldesi, KeyTech founder had such confidence in his invention that he created a video to show that, after 60 days of exposure to air, the filament would not break down.
There are currently a series of food safety filaments on the market, including PP Plastic from German RepRap and HDglassTM from FormFutura, an ultra-transparent PETG modified.
4. Time for Food Contact
The duration of your 3D printed object contact your food also influences the food safety of your kitchenware.
Objects like knives have long been unaffected by your food, so these objects are safer for use on food even without a food-grade filament.
However, when you think of 3D printing food containers like bowls or a coffee mug, extra precautions will be put in place to prevent the growth of bacteria with food safe sealants and epoxy.
5. Cleaning and washing procedures
Since PLA is susceptible to high temperatures and is completely fragile by itself without any additives, most dishwashers will surely break, smelt or deform your PLA utensils.
In fact, after a few cycles in the dishwasher, the PLA objects are unusable. The breakage during washing of these utensils may also damage your dishwasher and wash other items.
PLA plastic does not look like polycarbonate plastic used for sub-vide cooking and food storage in many food containers.
6. Use a safe food extruder/hot end
You can buy a stainless steel hot end that is considered safe to use with food to prevent contamination by your extruder. If you only wish to use it to print a cup or two. This could be a little excessive. If you are, however, very worried about risks or print a lot of kitchen appliances, then this could just be worth it!
7. Cultivation of bacteria
Because of its organic nature, PLA is porous and can contain tiny cracks that in even the best-looking printed objects are naked in the human eye.
These cracks can accommodate the germs and bacteria from old foods and can thrive if not thoroughly cleaned. Keep an eye on smooth material so that food can be blocked into your object.
It’s suggested that PLA is only used to clothes and kitchen appliances – you may want to reconsider whether your 3D printer is the right tool to use if you plan for reuse of your PLA kitchenware.
Is PLA food safe?
So all the thing verse files you have set up are your 3D printer, PLA filament spool and SLT files. These stylish cups and wacky kitchen utensils you will be ready to print. But wait, is food safe for PLA?
Yes, PLA is safe for food but not for the long-term storage of food. For 3D printing, remember how the objects are cleansed and how they are accumulated by bacteria, food-safe lacquering and stickers, chemicals and production process, food contact time.
The Food and Chemical Toxicology Review (FDA), published a PLA study that followed the guidelines of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), concluded that PLA is safe and ‘generally recognized as safe.’
The study found that, if used in contact with food, PLA is generally recognized as safe (GRAS). Their summary found that a small amount of lactic acid is emitted into food by PLA. Lactic acid, even in breast milk, is a common food ingredient. They estimated that PLA would consume lactic acid in approximately 700 times as much as breast-feeding infants’ lactic acid intake.
It’s fun to use 3D printing to create not only good, but useful things. There are nearly endless possibilities.
When you use the PLA filament* in your 3D objects, it raises the question whether the kitchen utensils that come into daily contact with food and drink are safe and dangerous for humans, such as drinking tassel or food storage box.
The answer is yes – as long as you take into account these things: PLA is safe for food
- The object should be as fluid as possible.
- Use only additive-free PLA filaments.
- Use a nozzle of inox steel.
- The dust has to be totally clean.
- Dishwasher is not suited to PLA.
- Coating epoxy resin for frequent application with food-safe.
What happens if you eat PLA?
When ingested for sufficient time, your stomach lining would be eaten. The resin itself is quite harmless, but the color of the resin is toxic and I mean toxic. If the PLA-pellets you eat are straightforward, you wouldn’t survive as long as they have 0 nutritional value, as they are just extracts of oil that are heated up until only starch is left.
In summary, NO, if you starved, you couldn’t eat PLA. You would die rather quickly if colored, if not you would die from hunger anytime as it does not have a nutritional value, as your stomach lining was eaten.
Watch How to make food-safe 3D printed models [Video]
Top 5 FAQs & answer related to PLA food safety
Can the 3D printer print food as well?
Also known as food printers are 3D printers capable of printing food.
Instead of using ink, they produce an edible product using different kind of foods like an inkjet printer or plastic, as a traditional 3D press.
Can PLA be eaten safely?
The study found that, if used in contact with food, PLA is generally recognized as safe (GRAS). Their summary found that a small amount of lactic acid is emitted into food by PLA. Many hot ends of a 3D printer contain food-safe materials.
Is PLA filament toxic?
PLA is known as the least poisonous filament, while nylon is one of the most poisonous filaments. Using an enclosure and air purifier, you can minimize toxicity.
What is the degradation of PLA into?
PLA can be degraded to unsafe lactic acid, and is therefore used as an anchor, scaffolding, plating, pins, rods and mesh medical implants. It breaks down within the body within six months to two years, depending on the exact type used.
Is PLA Filament food safe?
PLA is a safe, food-contact 3D printing material. This material is used for packaging with plastic injection molding. However, PLA filament appears to be the perfect choice if you want to create pale objects that are biodegradable, such as cookies.
It is important to consider the safety of food or not in 3D printed PLA filament. You can also check the safety data sheet of the manufacturer to see if the filament has toxic particles.
Finally, you should use PLA food safe coating during finishing if you print 3D items that touch food. You will also want to check whether or not the PLA filament has expired.
Do not think of how harmful it can be, if you want to make money through 3D printing objects that will affect food.
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