The use of 3D printed polymers for use as food contact material is still controversial. You can find many opinions on the internet, scattered across articles, forums etc. What is consistent through most of the information found is that there is a general lack of thorough studies of the inherent issues.
We are proud to announce that we at Drizzle have performed all of the required measurements to certify our extractors as food safe, as regulated by CR 10/2011/EU (Union Guidance on Regulation (EU) No 10/2011 on plastic materials and articles intended to come into contact with food)
In general, the 3D print community is faced with at least two significant problems when it comes to food contact material:
1: Bacterial growth
2: Migration of plastic and precursors
Bacterial growth is a problem because the technologies (such as FDM) used to print the parts results in a porous object. The tiny pores are filled with residuals from the processed food and offer an excellent place for bacterial growth.
We have at Drizzle handled the bacterial issue partly because our extractors run with alcohol as the extraction medium. The alcohol automatically cleans and disinfects any bacteria or residuals present. Furthermore, we have developed a non-stick post-treatment technique that removes the tiny pores and gives the surface Teflon-like properties.
The issue with plastic and precursor migration was a more significant issue to solve. Plastic that comes into contact with food-related products must be certified according to CR 10/2011/EU, a standard regulating how much polymer may diffuse into the end product. It furthermore controls how much of the precursors used in the polymer manufacture can leech into the end product. To figure out if our planned production method, using a customized PETG as a base material, we teamed up with the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). In collaboration with a master thesis student from DTU, we explored the subject for ten months, measuring total migration and specific migration for each of the relevant compounds. As equipment, we used a combination of high-precision laboratory scales and HPLC-QTOF-MS as analytical instrumentation.
Colorful images of some of the precursors used for reference
The result of the master thesis was that we are at least a hundredfold below the acceptable limit for specific migration and much below the required limit for total migration.
As far as we are informed, this is the first study of its kind performed, so we hope this will help usher in an era of new kitchen devices from the 3D printing community.