Hey there, fellow 3D printing enthusiasts! Today, we’re going to chew the fat on a juicy topic: food-safe 3D printing. Let’s dive into the wild and wonderful world of filaments, coatings, and yes, even a little bit of bureaucracy. Buckle up!
Image by Lilfish06 on Printables.com
First things first, let’s get our definitions straight. ‘Food grade’ and ‘food safe’ might sound like they’re the same thing, but they’re as different as apples and, well, 3D-printed oranges. Food grade means a material is safe to come in contact with food, or even to eat (though I wouldn’t recommend snacking on filament!). Food safe, on the other hand, means a material meets all the requirements for its intended use and won’t create a food-safety hazard. Cool, right?
Now, let’s talk about the rules of the game here in Australia. Our regulations for materials that come into contact with food are outlined in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (ANZFSC). While it’s a bit of a minefield to navigate how these rules specifically apply to 3D printing, the general gist is that food contact materials can’t mess with the food’s taste or smell, they can’t be toxic, and they can’t let substances migrate into the food in amounts that could put our health in the crosshairs.
But wait, there’s more! Let’s talk about bacteria. You see, your 3D printed masterpiece can become a bacteria hot spot faster than you can say ‘E. coli’. If you’re making something that you plan to use for a while, a food-safe coating is your best friend.
Speaking of coatings, there are a few good ones out there to keep bacteria and particle migration at bay. Food-grade epoxy or polyurethane resin is a great pick. Brands like Masterbond’s EP42HT-2FG or ArtResin, or an FDA-approved PTFE (known to its pals as Teflon®) can seal the deal.
Now, let’s talk dishwashers. We all love the convenience, but most 3D printing materials aren’t fans of high temperatures. So, if you’re planning to pop your 3D printed piece in the dishwasher, double-check that the material is dishwasher safe, or you might end up with a deformed mess.
Here’s another fun fact: particles from your 3D printer can hitch a ride on your 3D printed parts. So, it’s important to make sure that any components that might touch the 3D printing material or the part are food grade and won’t leach any nasty chemicals.
This brings us to the burning question: which 3D printing materials are actually food safe? Well, my friends, many materials are a big no-no as they might contain toxic chemicals. Always stick to materials that are certified for food safety.
Now, let’s not forget about food contact time. The longer food hangs out with your 3D printed part, the higher the risk of migration. So, it’s always a good idea to limit food contact time, especially for parts that will be in contact with food for longer periods.
Image by Andreas Mass at Printables.com
Now, if you’re thinking, “Okay, but what material should I actually use?” – well, PLA (Polylactic Acid) is usually your go-to guy. It’s the most common filament touted for being food safe. But hold your horses, because there’s a bit of a plot twist! PLA+ is PLA’s beefed-up cousin, made with a few extra ingredients to give it better strength and flexibility. This is great for durability, but those additional ingredients could be party crashers when it comes to food safety. So, before you start printing up a storm with PLA+, give the manufacturer a bell to make sure it’s safe to use with food. Better safe than sorry, right?
Remember, safety first! Always consider your purpose when using 3D printing for food contact items. If you’re after custom shapes and forms, there are often indirect ways to use 3D printing, like with molding.
That’s all for today! Keep in mind that while 3D printing can create some awesome and unique food-related items, safety is key. Happy (and safe) printing!