A few weeks ago, the comprehensive First Draft Report along with the First Draft of NFPA 1, 2021 edition, was published. In the report, documentation of all first revisions, committee inputs, and responses to public inputs, are available for public review. The First Draft is the public’s first view of the current state of the document and the newly introduced changes and topics that were voted on by the Fire Code Technical Committee.
NFPA’s codes and standards must remain relevant and useful to our variety of customers who use them. One way to do this is to continue to evolve and introduce requirements for new and emerging technology into our codes and standards. NFPA 1 did just that in its First Draft by adding a chapter on Additive Manufacturing (3D printing).
Additive manufacturing is defined as ‘a process of joining materials to make objects from 3D model data, usually layer upon layer, sometimes referred to as 3D printing’. There are two types of this process that are addressed in NFPA 1. Industrial Additive Manufacturing is 3D printing operations that utilize combustible powders or metals, an inert gas supply, or a combustible dust collection system or that create a hazardous electrical classification area outside of the equipment. Nonindustrial Additive Manufacturing do not create a hazardous electrical classification area outside of the equipment and do not utilize an inert gas supple or combustible dust collection system. In general, it’s a process in which a material, such as plastic or metal, is added in layers until a fully designed item is whole and complete.
3D printing is not a completely new process, but its popularity has been growing, the technology is evolving and 3D printers are becoming more mainstream and more widely available to businesses and to the public. It is being conducted in a variety of occupancies: personal residences, healthcare, businesses and industrial operations and can produce everything from small plastic gadgets to large metal jet engine parts.
But what place does additive manufacturing have in a fire code? In the September/October 2018 edition of NFPA Journal, Angelo Verzoni cited a study published in the Environmental Science & Technology journal which found that the plastics used in smaller, desktop 3D printers (nonindustrial processes) can produce hazardous volatile organize compounds and should be used in well ventilated areas. Because most of the materials used in the process are combustible, the primary concern of larger 3D printers, likely classified as industrial additive manufacturing, is the production of combustible dust. The printing process generates dust and can produce very small particles. Some metals used in the process can burn very quickly and produce high temperatures. All of this being a concern to building owners, fire inspectors, equipment operators and occupants.
The Fire Code is addressing these issues by requiring listed equipment, safe dust collection and management processes and safe use and handing of any associated hazardous materials. Other NFPA documents such as NFPA 652 and NFPA 400 are referenced for their expertise on the relevant topics associated with the additive manufacturing process.
3D printing is an exciting technology and we are sure to see more of it in the future as the equipment advances and products that impact our day to day lives are produced by 3D printers. The Fire Code is sure to follow these advances and ensure that our customers are provided with requirements to keep their buildings, occupants and property safe from fire incidents involving this process.
To view the details of the NFPA 1 First Draft Report and new Chapter 46 visit nfpa.org/1next. We are also seeking input from the public on the recent changes made to the Code. We invite you to participate in the process by submitting comments to NFPA 1 using the link on the page above.
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