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New guidelines to improve safety in 3D printing sector

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SINGAPORE: A new safety framework for local additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, companies was launched on Wednesday (Mar 31) to improve safety in the sector. 

Technical reference 87 (TR 87) on Safety of Additive Manufacturing Facilities was announced by Second Minister for Trade and Industry Tan See Leng during his visit to manufacturing company Sodick Singapore Technology Centre.

TR 87 aims to lay out best practices for the 3D printing industry, particularly for new companies, on the safe setup, operations and maintenance of additive manufacturing facilities, said Enterprise Singapore and the Singapore Standards Council in a press release.  

TR 87 was conceptualised about five years ago, Dr Tan told reporters during his visit. 

“Industry-wide, I think there were certain gaps in terms of how international standards and guidelines can be relevant to the type of industry that we have in Singapore,” he said.

The Government intends to push these guidelines to the whole industry, with the hope that they can eventually become a code of practice that can be shared internationally, he added.

READ: Singapore can be ‘a more digital, more resilient advanced manufacturing base’ for the world: DPM Heng

BEST PRACTICES FOR THE INDUSTRY

The framework will cover storage of flammable, reactive or hazardous additive manufacturing material.

This includes fine metal powder, a key ingredient in additive manufacturing. These powders are usually “microscopic”, can pose a health hazard to workers and are toxic to the environment, said the press release. 

TR 87 details the maximum allowable quantity of hazardous materials to be stored in the facility at any time. 

It also has measures that include avoiding situations that will suspend metal powder in the air and create a dust cloud, and eliminating potential sources of ignition, such as generating static electricity, from powder handling areas. 

In addition, companies should segregate chemical waste to prevent inadvertent mixing that will cause “undesired” chemical reactions.

Under the guidelines for equipment, primary additive manufacturing machines should have built-in compartments to contain raw feedstock metal powders. Facilities should minimise operators’ direct exposure to the powder and meet general requirements of shielding operators from high-powder and high-heat energy sources. 

Separately, the 3D printing machine room and powder storage should be a controlled environment and have provisions to separate occupants from sources of pollutants. They should have electrical, gas and fire safety measures in place.

The facilities should also have risk assessment and risk control measures, safe workplace operations and hazardous waste management in place.

READ: Tuas explosion: 3 workers die from injuries, 5 in critical condition

READ: Tuas explosion: Workers who died from injuries in fire were breadwinners

TR 87 WAS “PROACTIVELY” PLANNED

On whether TR 87 was a response to a Tuas explosion in February, Dr Tan drew a distinction between the combustible powders covered under the framework and the powders involved in the accident.

Potato starch powder was pinpointed as the source of an explosion in an industrial building in Tuas last month, which left three workers dead and seven injured. 

TR 87 only covers metallic powders, noted Dr Tan, although the Government hopes to eventually broaden its scope to cover other types of powders.

“We constantly look at reviewing, improving, expanding the area of coverage, but today … it is very specific to this additive manufacturing industry itself,” he said.

“Was this developed as an afterthought? It wasn’t; it was something that we have proactively been planning for the last four, five years.”



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