3D Printing and Food Safety
A lot of people have asked us if the 3D-printed parts used in our system are safe for use around food. While these concerns are legitimate, you can rest assured that 3Dponics parts are safe.
We use PLA, which is a non-toxic material that has been classified by the FDA as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). There are different 3D filaments out there—some more toxic than others—so we recommend sticking to PLA when 3D printing objects that will be coming into contact with food.
PLA vs. ABS
PLA (polylactide or polylactic acid) and ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) are the two main types of plastic used in mainstream 3D printing. Both of these materials are thermoplastics, which basically means that they become soft and moldable when heated and return to a solid when cooled.
The main difference between the two plastics is that ABS is petroleum-based while PLA is derived from renewable resources like corn, wheat, tapioca and sugarcane. ABS and PLA also differ in other aspects including flexibility, strength, temperature resistance and finish, but the most important thing to remember when building
3Dponics is to choose PLA (or other non-toxic, non-GMO filaments), not ABS.
ABS contains toxic ingredients like butadiene and styrene, and so, we do not recommend using it to print 3Dponics parts or any objects that will come into contact with food.
Study proves that PLA is food safe
In 1995, a study was conducted to assess the safety of PLA for use as a food-contact polymer. The findings of this study, which was performed according to FDA guidelines, are summarized below:
The limited migration observed during the trials represents no significant risk since migrating species are expected to convert to lactic acid, a safe food substance. It is concluded that PLA is safe and ‘Generally Recognized As Safe’ for its intended uses as a polymer for fabricating articles that will hold and/or package food.
Basically, the study revealed that PLA releases a small amount of lactic acid (a common food ingredient that can be found even in breast milk) into food. How much exactly? It was estimated that the amount of lactic acid people would consume from PLA would be about 700 times less than the amount consumed by a breast-fed infant.
Bottom line: No need to worry! Stick to PLA, steer clear of ABS and keep an eye out for the latest eco-friendly and food-safe filaments.
Please contact us if you have any other questions or concerns about 3D printing and food safety or about the 3Dponics system in general.