Coronavirus caused COVID-19 pandemic is the worst terrifying episode of mankind’s reign on Earth to date. Not only it has claimed over a hundred thousand lives in its wake, but it has also given many sleepless nights to medical and research professionals across the globe. However, technological advancements occur in the apex of crisis times. Like submarine (U-boats), computers, man’s first step on the moon, etc. have been fruits of war rivalry or race to be labeled as the best of nations. But this is a different battle human civilization is caught up with. With several fields of modern science and computing trying to up the game, there are many unsung heroes too. 3D-printing is such a noble name.
3D printing is viewed as a stopgap solution in this time of crisis of lack of medical equipment shortages. Hospitals and government are turning to industries to come up with innovative ways of resolving this pandemic induced emergency.
Automaker legend Volkswagen is using 3D printing to produce face shield components. This aid comes under a joint transnational initiative by Airbus and the 3D printing network, “Mobility goes Additive”. This collaboration includes about 25 companies. And it will send the necessary components to Spain. ŠKODA has developed a 3D printing process to produce reusable FFP3 respirators. Tech giant HP is employing its 3D printing expertise by turning its research-and-development centers in Spain and the United States into factories to manufacture urgent personal protective equipment (P.P.E.). This includes a hands-free door opener, a clasp that can adjust masks and brackets to hold face shields. Furthermore, the Palo Alto-based firm is also planning to launch a mechanical bag valve mask (BVM) to help COVID-19 patients, along with an FFP3 face mask for the medical providers as soon as the testing and validation phase completes.
In Italy, local 3D printing company Isinnova used reverse engineering to make a 3D-printed version of the ventilator valves(named Charlotte valve) using a stereolithography 3D printer. It was to help hospitals facing a deficit of the Venturi valve. This component required to connect an oxygen mask to a respirator. China has used 200 plastic extrusion 3D printers to start the mass production of safety goggles to address an extreme shortage of the same.
While New York couple Isaac Budmen and Stephanie Keefe of Budmen Industries are providing 3D printed masks for free. According to CNN the template to make such a mask has been downloaded over 2000 times from their company’s website. Materialise, a Belgium-based 3D printing company that primarily works with the automotive, aerospace, and healthcare industries, has made design files for a hands-free door opener available online for free.
This design print can fit on a cylindrical door handles, without drilling holes or replacing the existing door handle. And allows people to open doors with their forearms. A 3D printer seller Formlabs switched to make 3D-printed products like nasal swipes, tools kits, etc.
Although there are limitations to this technology, 3D leverages the gap due to faster production speed and adaptive working solution. Also, it is not clear how sterilized these products are because of where they are made of and packaged with. Hence, health workers are advised to use them once, in case it has not received any certification.
Conclusively, one cannot deny the importance of how 3D printing is contributing to help and save lives. As it forms an essential node by linking suppliers and customers with its ability to meet the current fluctuating market demand and scope for a creative approach.