The idea of 3D printers has been around since the early 70s,
finally becoming commercially available in the mid 2000’s.
With the current climate and unprecedented amount of viral cases overtaking the infrastructure of healthcare, Items like masks and Ventilators are in high demand but short supply. That is where 3D printing is becoming a powerful tool to help healthcare professionals fight this disease head on.
But how did we get here? Let’s start with the one printer that made an impact on the market and design world.
The MakerBot 3D printer opened up the idea of mass market 3D printing and created the boom of 3D goods and services within the consumer market. Not just printers, resins, 3D software and online classes, but goods and services. From creating life-like miniature versions of yourself, to letting consumers fix products that broke that they normally wouldn’t be able to fix.
And while 3D printing has had controversial uses, the good it has done and could do for society, has hopefully, outweighed the bad.
This leads us to today
As we stated above, masks and ventilators are in high demand but short supply. This is where the corporate and private sector took up the fight to combat this virus with the one weapon that could help us – 3D printers. With the American Hospital Association estimating that 960,000 patients will need these life saving counter measures, these engineering marvels of design couldn’t come soon enough.
Now, while 3D printers can’t be utilized to build these complex machines alone, they can and are being used to create parts for broken machines, or to create housing and additional parts for new “MacGyver” style machines. However, that has not stopped companies building emergency 3d printed ventilators.
Americans could need
Ford (the automotive company) has designed a power air-purifying respirator using parts of their F-150 line and hand tools.
As you can see from these sketches, Ford is building the PARP or Powered Air-Purifying Respirator through a joint venture with themselves, GE Healthcare and the UAW. Where the 3D printer comes in, is to build cases for the equipment and build custom plastic parts for the hoods and filter units.
General Motors and Tesla has also joined the fight to create new and innovative ways to meet the demand of these life-saving tools.
Volunteers are creating 3D-Printed valves for Ventilators
Two individuals, Cristian Fracassi and Alessandro Romaioli, who worked at a startup, offered to create valves for a hospital in Italy when they were running short on supplies. Using reverse engineering from a larger company. These valves reportedly worked on 10 patients as of March 14th.
Via: Massimo Temporelli
3D printed testing equipment
Two companies, Formlabs and Markforged are developing 3D-printed nasal swabs for testing kits. However, since these are going into the body, specific biocompatible, sterilizable resin needs to be used. There are resins like this that have been used in the dental world however, and these 3D printed swabs are in the final phases of clinical trials.
Valves are starting to be mass produced
In the UK, the company Photocentric, who manufactures LCD 3d Printers ran overnight tests on their large-format machines to print over 600 valves with an estimate of being able to produce 40,000 valves in a week.
Can you make parts and equipment?
It would be great if everyone who has a consumer 3D printer could help, but unfortunately, quality control is a huge issue. You can imagine, while casings and simple parts can help, items like valves or testing equipment, need to be perfected, tested and adhere to stringent healthcare regulations. You can’t send a hospital 30 printed valves only for them to break or not work.
That said, if you have a factory or a small startup and would like to help; reach out to your local hospital or government official and join the fight. Through Design, through engineering and through the ingenuity of the human factor, we can help our fellow people.
Stay Safe – Stay Home – Stay Creative