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Administration on my campus has become worried about the lack of a fume hood when using acetone in the 3D Print Club. I'm helping in the process of picking one out.

They do acetone vapor smoothing on their prints, but I know they have a box to do that in. Other than that, it's acetone in a bottle for dissolving support material and plastic residue.

  1. Does there need to be a fume hood with acetone?

  2. If I can get a ductless fume hood, what am I looking for to be sure that it can effectively take care of the acetone problem?

I need to prove to administration that the club is fixing the problem, and I frankly have no idea what to look for in fume hoods.

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    $\begingroup$ Honestly, even in an academic chemistry lab, people use acetone to rinse glassware at the sink once its been washed (all done outside of a hood). If I have a lot of washing, can easily get through a couple of litres. The amount it sounds like you'll be going through is insignificant, I see no need for a hood (+acetone is used a lot in DIY applications, again, where no hood possible) $\endgroup$ – NotEvans. Jul 10 '17 at 21:53
  • $\begingroup$ @notevans. If people are rinsing with acetone at the sink, that is probably an environmental safety violation. The wash should go into a waste bottle. Whether or not a fume hood is necessary depends on the concentration of the vapor and the length of exposure. In the US, there are strict laws from OSHA, and you're asking for a hefty fine per violation if you're not in compliance. $\endgroup$ – Zhe Jul 10 '17 at 22:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Zhe No no, at the sink, into a waste container, not into the sink literally. In the UK this is very much the norm $\endgroup$ – NotEvans. Jul 10 '17 at 22:21
  • $\begingroup$ @NotEvans. Ah. Sorry. Misunderstood what you meant. Washing at the sink is probably fine. Since waste container and acetone bottle are normally closed, the amount of vapor is relatively limited. $\endgroup$ – Zhe Jul 11 '17 at 1:53
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Does there need to be a fume hood with acetone?

Unless you're using very large quantities of it or in a confined space, usually not. I've spent a fair bit of time washing glassware out with acetone at the sink (using a bin to capture the runoff for transfer to a waste container) and I never had issues. Though I don't recommend doing this yourself, I've also had several errant splashes directly on my skin when working with stuff from the hardware store--again, no problems.

Acetone is staggeringly nontoxic: the NIH suggests an 8500 ppm EEL, meaning that in emergency situations, it's considered acceptable to breathe air that is nearly one full percent acetone for up to one hour. Hell, the air in my house contains less water than that sometimes.


If I can get a ductless fume hood, what am I looking for to be sure that it can effectively take care of the acetone problem?

Look at this link. If the acetone is heated in the box, you should be able to meet all the criteria for being able to use a ductless hood:

  • A limited number of different chemicals should be used.

    Acetone only. Check.

  • No extreme heating should be carried out in the hood, i.e. acid digestion applications.

    You only need to boil acetone. That's 56C, not even close to the boiling point of water. Check.

  • Modest chemical volumes should be used, around 500 mls or less per chemical.

    Even if you need more than this (you shouldn't, 500mL of acetone is quite a bit), it'll mostly be sealed in a box, so you shouldn't have nearly that much escaping into the hood. Check.

  • Moderate chemical exposure times should be maintained.

    I don't know exactly how long it takes to smooth a print, but I don't think it can really be more than a few hours. You're probably okay on this one.

  • Will the chemicals involved in your application be effectively filtered with the available carbon filters?

    Yes. Acetone is so common I can all but guarantee that every company will have a filter that can capture it (probably whatever is used for other general organic compounds as well). In Labconoco's case, that's the organic vapor filter.

  • How often will you have to replace your filters?

    I don't know, that'll be your club's responsibility.

Finally, make sure someone doesn't get the idea that the hood will stop all fumes and try to do a perchloric acid experiment using that hood--that will go badly.


Now, all this being said...

What you really need isn't to make this safe, what you need is to convince administration that you're doing things safely. This may have nothing at all to do with whether things are actually safe or not.

At my old school (where I was briefly president of the local ACS chapter), I could have put an experiment into a fume hood with no filter, not plugged the thing in, and gotten an okay from the administrators because they believed that fume hood = safe and no fume hood = unsafe no matter what else was going on.

I say this not to encourage you to try to trick your way out of this, but to point out that, unless your administration is scientific (i.e. actually understands science), then it's fairly likely you're going to have to jump through a few silly hoops in order to satisfy them.

Best of luck!

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