If you have access to a 3D printer, it might be difficult to stay away from printing all sorts of items, whether you need them or not. There's nothing wrong with consuming your creativity, but you have to pay attention to how you put these items to use. For instance, printing cookie cutters might not be safe if you don't exactly know what materials to use. Creating your own food-safe kitchen utensils depends on a variety of aspects that are all included in this article. Read it thoroughly to rest assured that the items you print can be used around food at absolutely no risks.
Things you have to consider
What materials are food-safe?
Some materials are specially created to be safe around food, but they might come with limitations. If you want to use PEEK as your main printing material, the whole printer has to be customized to support the conditions that it requires. Moreover, not any 3D printer can safely work with PEEK. The materials that are most commonly used for printing food-safe items include HIPS (the material used for fabricating plastic cutlery), PET and PLA.
The only situation in which you can use PLA as your main filament is when it doesn't include any toxic additives. Keep in mind that PLA cookie cutters can't be placed in the dishwasher because the material releases toxins when exposed to heat. Lukewarm or anti-bacterial detergents are suitable for cleaning 3D-printed parts. It's important to use a material that is strong enough to support cookie cutters' main function - cutting through the dough. All fish cookie cutters listed on www.fishcookiecutter.com are food safe!
The 3D printer's features matter too
After figuring out what is the most suitable material for printing kitchen utensils, you will have to check whether the 3D printer that has been used is food-safe. The parts of the printer might have been in contact with other materials that are toxic. The PTFE tube and feeder gear must be carefully cleaned before printing with a food-grade filament. For cookie cutters, this filament is not necessarily required because the product comes in contact with food for just a few seconds.
Another way to keep printed kitchen utensils safe would be by using a different hot end, made out of stainless steel that has properties which eliminate possible contamination. Reducing the apparition of layer gaps keeps bacteria away from getting stuck in between these layers and it can only be done by altering the 3D printing process.
The regular way to 3D-print items is through FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling). Even so, no FDM printed object is safe to use around food. The process has to go through one more step - adding sealant between the layers. Choose afood-safe sealant of your choice (epoxy, wax paper or others) and apply several coats to completely eliminate layer gaps and - implicitly - microbes.
Use an extra layer of protection
If you are still not 100% sure that the food-safe process was carefully respected, you can add an extra layer of protection by covering the 3D-printed part into a food-safe material, like plastic wrap. The printed part won't come into direct contact with food, so you have no reason to worry about. For objects such as cookie cutters that are rapidly used, such measurements are not mandatory but pay attention to how you clean them after usage.