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In additive manufacturing (AM), 3D printers can create parts using templates for biotech, medical, aerospace, defense, consumer electronics, and other industries. Some of the companies that rely on 3D printing to create devices and components for industries include 3D Systems, Renishaw, and Stratasys.

The additive part of additive manufacturing refers to the way that individual layers are fused together: Powders are deposited in layers and then fused together with inert gases.  Argon is frequently used, as is nitrogen.

Inert gases are safe for use so long as they are contained. Otherwise, these naturally dense gases displace oxygen from the environment. If argon gas were to leak from the 3D printer, it would push oxygen out of the room to the point where employees would experience respiratory problems.

Since argon has no odor or visual cues, employees would not know there was a leak. Best practices include using oxygen monitors outside machines for leak detection and employee safety. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces stringent regulatory requirements for O2 deficiency monitors to protect workers in various industrial settings. These standards are designed to prevent accidents associated with oxygen depletion, which can have dire consequences for human health and operational integrity.

Another risk is for oxygen to leak into the 3D printer. For product purity and to prevent explosions in the manufacturing facility, it’s important to keep oxygen levels below 1,000 ppm using an oxygen analyzer.