Are 3D Printers safe for kids?

In this article, we will look at various facets of the safety of 3D printing for children including the materials used, items produced as well as the 3D printing process itself.

Children are naturally drawn to 3D printing. Brightly colored, reasonably inexpensive objects which may be made to their specification are fascinating to kids. We looked at some interesting 3D printed ideas for kids and help you decide what is safe.

So, is using a 3D printer safe for kids?

The brief answer is 3D printed items may be safe for children, but there are plenty of issues to take into account. Parents and educators will have to take into account many variables before deciding, and everyone's idea of reasonable safety or risk may vary.

This is merely an informational guide,  to help you work out what you will need to be worried about. Please be sure you think the issues related to your specific circumstances.

Before We Start...Stay Away From Kickstarter 3D Printers

So you wish to save money with a Kickstarter printer? This used to be a great idea. Back in 2015-16, an affordable Kickstarter 3D printer was an exciting thing. Now, not a week passes without a new 3D printer appearing on Kickstarter.

But the majority of these inexpensive 3D printers found on Kickstarter are as kits, which need to be assembled. Secondly , Kickstarter 3D printers are prototype versions. They have not been through the trials and tribulations of thousands of hours of user tests. You'll surely encounter problems that you must solve by yourself.

And the third downside: Most Kickstarter 3D printers take a long time to deliver – which kid  (or adult) has the patience to wait months before they get started, right?


Physical Dangers

The most important rule: Never leave young children alone with a 3D printer! By all means, 3D printers are not any toys and must be handled with caution. As a guideline, treat them with respect you would deal with all of your workshop tools.

Safety First!  They do not call it “the hot-end” for nothing. Do not ever touch it when it is hot.

The majority of the physical risks come from the heated components and the motors. Their extruders heat up to around 260 deg. Celsius. If this scares you then right off the bat I would recommend you consider buying a 3D pen instead. There are some wonderful 3D pens for children currently on the market, most of which retail between $50-$100.

If touched, a hot-end can cause severe skin burns! Additionally, the heated beds, on which 3D printers extrude their models, may heat up to around 100 deg. Celsius -- also way too hot for kids. Last, the fast-moving metal components out of a stepper motor can be harmful to tiny fingers.

Another consideration is fumes. For materials like ABS and Nylon, this is definitely an issue. This study (from a filament seller ) concludes that the substances are safe during 3D printing. But many consider it a sensible precaution to just 3D print with such substances in a well-ventilated space.

So notify your child about the probable dangers; do not abandon them unwatched, and use precautions (gloves, glasses, etc.) when handling a 3D printer.

thingmaker 3D printing with children

There are numerous cool Programs, tools, and curriculums designed to get children involved with the area of 3D printing. You find an interesting list of 3D printing tools for kids there.

Choosing the right materials and objects

There are plenty of different materials which may be utilised in 3D printers. There are even 3D printer extruders that can print with play dough, Plasticine and modeling clay.

These substances have their age recommendations - the PlayDoh brand that we have at the moment says from age group 2+.

And people are also printing with edible materials like chocolate, fondant and cookie dough. These substances themselves are safe but present new food hygiene requirements.

But more typically home 3D printing will be done with vinyl - either ABS or PLA. ABS is the plastic that LEGO bricks are made from. PLA is a bioplastic; it is non-toxic. Both are considered safe for kids when published.

When heated, plastic filament emits particles. That is not the stuff you need to let your children breathe. However, the difference between ABS and PLA is filament is stark, ABS filament comprises oil, and the fumes can also be poisonous, whereas most PLA is completely safe and non-toxic, even if your child happens to ingest it.

Not every filament is edible, which is important especially for smaller children -- you do not want to intoxicate them by choosing the incorrect stuff to 3D print, stick to PLA at the start.

Here's more info on the best way best to select non-toxic filament.

You also should take into account the printed objects themselves that could be dangerous. It is possible to publish really dangerous objects with a 3D printer if this is the intention. Objects that are not meant to be harmful can still pose a risk such as choking, pinching or cutting so the design of items needs to be carefully considered.

"Some printed components may present a CHOKING HAZARD or might be SHARP" Cubify

Objects printed using common 3D printing methods are not acceptable for a child who might place objects in their mouth. Cubify targets children with its 3D print-on-demand providers and includes a warning for kids under 3.


On the other hand, the internet 3D print-on-demand store Shapeways says that 3D printed items aren't toys in its terms and conditions. They also provide material safety data sheets for all the materials. They're not targeting kids at this time.

Industrial 3D printed toys could be certified as safe for children. The Makie doll is a customized 3D printed doll that's made to order and has been obtained through the certification procedure.

To attain this certificate the Makie doll has been through extensive testing.

3D Printers as well as the Printing Process

At this point, plenty of 3D printers are homemade, often from kits of parts. The 3D printing process typically involves high temperatures as ordinary materials like plastic need to be melted to extrude them. Our home constructed 3D printer is certainly not safe for children to use and they get to see it in action under close supervision.

3D Printing with materials like modeling clay, play dough, and Plasticine doesn't need high temperatures - the material is extruded through a syringe type device. The Robo 3D printer can even be controlled from your mobile phone! Although it is not exactly a printer for kids, I wouldn't be surprised if we see this type of system that's targeted at young kids in the future. My kids would love it, that is for sure.

Let the Kids Choose Their 3D Printing Project

Yes! 3D Printers help children unleash their creativity.

That's something you need to get used to as a parent: The kids lead the way, and you are only here to help. Therefore, even if the 3D print job is not the one you prefer -- clench your teeth and begin printing. That does not mean most children are not open to suggestions. If you would like to get deeper into that subject, please read Michael Eisenberg's 3D printing for kids: What to build next?

In Conclusion

Fundamentally, 3D printed items can be safe for children over 3, depending upon the materials used and the construction of this item. The process of 3D printing has plenty of possible dangers, but one product in particular, that the Cube from 3DSystems, is acceptable for children over age 8 and has got safety certification.

Later on, it is certainly possible that we will see 3D printers for younger children using materials which may be extruded without needing elevated temperatures.

If you are ready to dive into the deep end, we encourage you to take a look at our review of 4 best 3D printers for kids. Thanks for reading!

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