Halt and catch fire?  

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jsw
 jsw
(@jsw)
Noble Member

Here's a question, specifically pertaining to original Prusa printers, brought on by another thread having to do with unattended printing.

Has anyone personally had, or have first-hand knowledge of, a 3d printer, specifically a Prusa printer, actually catching fire or causing a fire?

Yeah, everyone's seen those photos on the Interwebs, but in reality, how common are 3d printer fires?  Is there any evidence that 3d printers are more of a fire hazard than common household appliances such as stoves, ovens, waffle irons, deep fryers, electric irons, dryers, (soldering irons) etc?

I'm not talking about some stinky smoke coming out of a power supply before the fuse/breaker/crowbar trips, I'm talking about any incidents where a (Prusa in particular) 3d printer caused combustible material, on the printer or near, to actually ignite and spread, as in a typical Class A or B fire?

Posted : 28/08/2020 10:27 am
vintagepc
(@vintagepc)
Noble Member

I recall only once incident in the last year and a half with a Prusa machine, and the official conclusion (IIRC, they took it VERY seriously) was that the printer had been modified by the user. Alas, I cannot recall specifics as to how it had been modified, but I'm guessing it was more than just "change the fan duct for a different colour". Probably one of the contributing reasons the Mini has the appendix for non-factory firmware now.

Generally speaking, there is an elevated risk. Most household appliances with plastics in proximity to heaters (coffee makers, etc) have fire retardants in the plastic that mean once the source of heat is gone the flames will self extinguish, and thermal fuses to prevent them overheating.

Printers, on the other hand, are often made with 3d printed parts, which do not have those additives. Plastics are essentially just solid hydrocarbons, and most will burn quite readily once ignited.

The parts are in close proximity to a heater that, if powered without regulation, can get very hot - and the safety is all in software; there is no mechanical temperature cutout or thermal fuse that opens in the event of something like a MOSFET shorting (where the board can no longer control the heater and it is permanently on) or the board freezing while the heater is on. These are relatively cheap parts, and it's a little surprising there isn't one attached to the heat blocks of higher-end printers. 

There have been documented incidents in the past where either poor quality control (fake heatbed connectors) or firmware (some manufacturers disable thermal runaway detection!!) has resulted in printers catching fire and igniting people's workspaces, exactly via the mechanisms above- the ABS fan shroud catches fire and ignites the rest of the extrude, which, in turn.... well, burning plastic can be a lot like napalm; it spatters burning droplets of itself, which will fall and stick to/ignite other things.

And woe is you if you keep your IPA and acetone near your printer in such a scenario... things can get ugly very fast.

I don't run my printer unless I'm home and awake -  and when I am ready to make the leap, I have a smoke alarm with a trouble output line I intend to wire to a control box to kill power if there are any signs of trouble.

This post was modified 9 months ago 2 times by vintagepc
Posted : 28/08/2020 2:39 pm
jsw
 jsw
(@jsw)
Noble Member
Posted by: @vintagepc

And woe is you if you keep your IPA and acetone near your printer in such a scenario... things can get ugly very fast.

Uh, this is actually very embarrassing!  🙁

I'm sure that I'm not the only guilty party.  Needless to say those have been swiftly relocated.

As I mentioned in another thread, I have the 3d Upfitters enclosure on order, and I was thinking of putting a smoke detector inside of it.  I like the idea of taking the output of it and using it to kill the power, and I'm going to look for a detector that has such an output.  I'm also planning to have a Pi Zero monitor the enclosure temperature, and this can also kill the power should that temperature get out of bounds.

This post was modified 9 months ago by jsw
Posted : 28/08/2020 2:55 pm
3Delight
(@3delight)
Moderator

I've heard of one Prusa MK2 catching fire (but this was due to the user modding it incorrectly), and about three or four non Prusa printers going up in flames.  Most of them were down to users not maintaining them or modding them incorrectly.

Posted : 28/08/2020 3:59 pm
bobstro
(@bobstro)
Illustrious Member

I think Angus from Maker's Muse had an incident with being shocked that was finally determined not to be the fault of the printer. There have been a handful of reports of thermal runaway and some pics here, though I think most were limited to charred controller boards and melted connectors. Things that might trigger a smoke alarm, but not full fires.

My understanding is that thermal runaway protection will protect against some of the most common hardware failures, but if the controller itself is faulty, things can still go wrong as @vintagepc notes. Prusa's use of quality components certainly helps (fire resistant electronic components, fuses) compared to other brands. Creality shipped a bunch of printers with faulty connectors (XT60?) last year IIRC. Even with thermal runaway enabled, there were a lot of smoking connector issues at the time (since remedied).

The bigger concern for me is how homeowner's insurance would view things if something does go wrong. Does using an unlisted product in "unsafe" (or at least uncontrolled) circumstances void insurance coverage?

My notes and disclaimers on 3D printing and miscellaneous other tech projects
He is intelligent, but not experienced. His pattern indicates two dimensional thinking. -- Spock in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan...
Posted : 28/08/2020 4:12 pm
vintagepc
(@vintagepc)
Noble Member

Hint: You want to look for AC-wired smoke detectors that can be linked - they have an output that is connected so that if one alarm sounds, they all sound. 

This output is normally 9VAC. Just be wary of more modern non-conventional ones that may actually use some sort of protocol to indicate more than just an alarm condition. For example, combo alarms will typically have a special way of communicating a CO alarm vs a fire alarm. 

 

Posted : 28/08/2020 4:29 pm
cwbullet
(@cwbullet)
Illustrious Member
Posted by: @jsw

Here's a question, specifically pertaining to original Prusa printers, brought on by another thread having to do with unattended printing.

Has anyone personally had, or have first-hand knowledge of, a 3d printer, specifically a Prusa printer, actually catching fire or causing a fire?

Yeah, everyone's seen those photos on the Interwebs, but in reality, how common are 3d printer fires?  Is there any evidence that 3d printers are more of a fire hazard than common household appliances such as stoves, ovens, waffle irons, deep fryers, electric irons, dryers, (soldering irons) etc?

I'm not talking about some stinky smoke coming out of a power supply before the fuse/breaker/crowbar trips, I'm talking about any incidents where a (Prusa in particular) 3d printer caused combustible material, on the printer or near, to actually ignite and spread, as in a typical Class A or B fire?

Yes.  I have had one caused by stupidity and one near miss and fried cotroller board caused by a loose wire on the heat bed.   

It is rare, but I recommend not printing unless you are at home.  

--------------------
Chuck H
3D Printer Review Blog...
Posted : 28/08/2020 7:29 pm
cwbullet
(@cwbullet)
Illustrious Member

I saw this and thought about buying one.  

https://www.tindie.com/products/niujl123/smoke-alarm-for-3d-printer/

--------------------
Chuck H
3D Printer Review Blog...
Posted : 28/08/2020 7:33 pm
3Delight
(@3delight)
Moderator

I would never leave my printer printing unattended! Luckily, being deaf, I can sit next to it all day and not be bothered by it!  Silver Linings and all that!

Posted : 28/08/2020 8:05 pm
bobstro
(@bobstro)
Illustrious Member
Posted by: @charles-h13

I saw this and thought about buying one.  

https://www.tindie.com/products/niujl123/smoke-alarm-for-3d-printer/

I actually bought one of those. Haven't installed it yet. It's a self-contained solution, but doesn't readily link to anything external if that's what you ultimately want.

My notes and disclaimers on 3D printing and miscellaneous other tech projects
He is intelligent, but not experienced. His pattern indicates two dimensional thinking. -- Spock in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan...
Posted : 28/08/2020 8:05 pm
jsw
 jsw
(@jsw)
Noble Member
Posted by: @bobstro
Posted by: @charles-h13

I saw this and thought about buying one.  

https://www.tindie.com/products/niujl123/smoke-alarm-for-3d-printer/

I actually bought one of those. Haven't installed it yet. It's a self-contained solution, but doesn't readily link to anything external if that's what you ultimately want.

Jeez, the shipping adds close to 50% to the price!

Posted : 29/08/2020 12:23 am
holmes4
(@holmes4)
Estimable Member

@jsw

It's a BIT less if you buy through PandaPi.

Posted : 02/09/2020 1:35 am
cwbullet
(@cwbullet)
Illustrious Member
Posted by: @holmes4

@jsw

It's a BIT less if you buy through PandaPi.

What is a PandaPi?

--------------------
Chuck H
3D Printer Review Blog...
Posted : 02/09/2020 2:34 am
bobstro
(@bobstro)
Illustrious Member

I found the $45 price with shipping competitive with other pre-built solutions. Cheapest , of course, is to roll your own. I wanted to support the guy who built this solution for the rest of us.

My notes and disclaimers on 3D printing and miscellaneous other tech projects
He is intelligent, but not experienced. His pattern indicates two dimensional thinking. -- Spock in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan...
Posted : 02/09/2020 4:02 am
jsw
 jsw
(@jsw)
Noble Member
Posted by: @charles-h13
Posted by: @holmes4

@jsw

It's a BIT less if you buy through PandaPi.

What is a PandaPi?

Looks like a company that makes Raspberry Pi based 3d print controllers.

Posted : 02/09/2020 7:26 am
holmes4
(@holmes4)
Estimable Member

If you go to the link posted above, the page says that the product is also sold through PandaPi and a link is given. It saved me $2.

Posted : 03/09/2020 12:21 am
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