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How to Extend Your BOFA Air Filter Life

February 15, 2024


By now, we all probably agree that having an air filter in your 3D printing space is essential. Not only do 3D printers produce emissions (ultrafine particles and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)) that can pose health hazards, but some materials also produce an odor while printing. That makes it necessary to have a safe, clean, and odor-free space while on your 3D printing adventures.

One of the ways to achieve this is by using an air filtration system. 

So hopefully, you already have a BOFA filtration system (or any other suitable air filter for 3D printing) in place to keep your 3D printing space safe and clear of VOCs and other particles. Or you’re considering purchasing one to use with your new printer. Whatever the case, you might wonder how to make your filtration system last longer so that you do not need to replace it ever so often. 

Other factors aside from your filter can cause a shortened filter life, such as the set-up, printing process, materials used, and the day-to-day maintenance of the technology. We dive into some of these causes below.

Causes of a short air-filter life 

According to Josh Evans, Applications Engineer at BOFA, there are two principal causes of a shortened filter life

  1. A restrictive hose: Evans says if the hose between the extractor and the process is too long or narrow and has numerous bends or diameter changes, the extractor will have to work harder. “So, for example, if it is losing 50% of its pressure capacity within the ducting system, this will only leave 50% of the capacity to draw air through the filters, hindering overall performance and decreasing time to filter blockage.” 
  2. Airflow rate set too high: If you’re blasting your extractor at close to maximum capacity, this might cause issues because there is little room for the technology to speed up as the filters start to block. Reducing the air flow rate might not help either, as it would not deliver the required performance, defeating the purpose. “The point here is that if you need to set the flow rate at very high rates to capture the fume effectively, that’s usually an indication that you need to move to an extractor with a higher capacity.”

Other factors affecting air filter life

The BOFA engineer goes on to highlight some other factors that may cut short the life of your air filter: 

  • The 3D printing process:  
  • The volume of particles or gases generated in the processes would affect the life span of your filter. Lasering or soldering, for example, might generate a lot of small particles, which, without a pre-filter, might block a filter like the HEPA. A solution would be to purchase a higher-efficiency pre-filter to help extend the HEPA filter life. 

  • Materials used:   
  • The Chemical Insights Research Institute (CIRI) has shown materials like nylon, ASA, and ABS produce higher emissions than others. This can, inevitably, reduce filter life. Using other kinds of material can result in extended filter life due to lower emissions and maybe even give you some savings on material costs. 

  • System control: 
  • It helps to have a system control system from the manufacturers of your air filter so that they can notice any blockages quickly from the system logs. “In this case, BOFA’s Intelligent Operating System (iQ) independently monitors each filter within an extraction system, making it easier for manufacturers to identify any filters blocking faster than anticipated,” says Evans. Once you share your system log with BOFA engineers, they’ll assess it to determine the root cause of your filter getting blocked prematurely.

    Five ways to extend your air filter life 

    So, you’ve read about the causes of a short filter lifespan and maybe gotten some ideas for what to look out for or change to get the most out of your air filter.  

    In summary, these are five ways to extend the life of your air filter: 

    1. Ensure nothing is restricting your air filter hose, causing it to work harder than it should. The less complicated it is between the extractor and your work, the better. That means not too narrow, no uncanny bends, and just enough length. 
    2. Reduce the air flow rate. Ensure you’re not running your extractor at full blast, especially at the beginning of the process, so it has enough room to pick up speed as the filters start to block. 
    3. If your process produces a high number of small particles that can easily block your air filter, e.g., soldering or lasering, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you do not invest in a pre-filter. A higher-efficiency pre-filter can save your filter, reducing blockage.  
    4. Swapping out materials to lower emission-producing ones, like PETG or NGEN (where possible), may help buy more time for your air filtration system and even save you some bucks on material costs in the long run. 
    5. Get a filtration system with system control. This way, manufacturers can look at your logs, assess the cause of any premature filter blockage from your air filter, and help you resolve it as quickly as possible. 

            At Shop3D, we’re big on customer support and are happy to answer any questions you may have before purchasing any of our filtration systems. Also, if you’re looking to service your air filter or extractor, don’t hesitate to create a service ticket. You’ll be glad you did.

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