The shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) the coronavirus has created is now responsible for the global hackathon. 3D printers are churning out everything from medical masks to face shields, oxygen valves, parts to make ventilators from snorkeling masks and even hands-free door handle attachments.
The shortage of some key equipment is dire in some locations. Makers, whether individuals or businesses of all sizes are answering the call with their 3D printers.
The Manufacturing Potential of 3D Printers
The one thing that makes 3D printing technology so valuable is its connectivity. With this connectivity, owners of 3D printers can start printing a design after they download it from the internet. Whether everyone is looking to print one specific thing or individual parts for a bigger whole, the technology makes it possible.
In the case of the coronavirus outbreak, makers are volunteering their printers to produce this badly needed equipment. Because there are tens of thousands of 3D printer owners, the agility and responsiveness of the technology can act as a stopgap until large manufacturers catch up.
The Makers That Are 3D Printing PPE
While large organizations are also volunteering to make this equipment, this article looks at small businesses and individual makers.
Isaac Budmen and Stephanie Keefe
Isaac Budmen and Stephanie Keefe of Liverpool, N.Y. printed 360 face shields in their basement using their 3D printers. Not only that, but more than 3,000 people around the world downloaded the files to print the face shields.
Budmen and Keefe operate Budmen Industries, a small business that manufactures custom 3D printers, which by the way they run from the basement of their home. This is a very small business doing what it can to help with the outbreak in its community. They currently have a gofundme campaign, which you can support here.
Dr. Dusty Richardson
Dr. Dusty Richardson, a neurosurgeon at Billings Clinic in Billings, Montana decided to start printing masks after he was told to use one mask per day. Generally, doctors use a different mask after each use case. The benefit of the masks Richardson print is you can wipe them down and sanitize them. Consequently you can wear them over and over again.
The one downside to the masks is you have to cut surgical masks as a filter. But even this can get 6 to 10 uses out of one surgical mask.
After hearing about the mask and the challenges with the filters, HiTech Filters in Billings came up with a better way to cut the filters. With this in mind, the company suggested cutting inserts from hospital-grade filtration material. In short, they can cut hundreds of inserts in just one minute. As a result, users with printed masks don’t have to waste valuable time cutting out filters from a surgical mask.
Formlabs is helping healthcare facilities by printing test swabs, another essential tool for testing people for COVID-19. While this is commendable, the company is urging its community of close to 1,000 users to deploy their printers for the greater good.
Gaurav Manchanda, Healthcare Director at Formlabs told Design News, “A single print can produce 300 test swabs at a time, enabling Formlabs to produce 75,000-150,000 swabs per day. This development will rapidly provide hospitals with access to large quantities of these essential COVID-19 test kit components.”
Michael Perina runs a small 3D printing fabrication shop in Staten Island, N.Y. When his five-year-old son was admitted with pneumonia, it couldn’t have come at a worse time. According to his gofundme page, his son is the first child to be tested for COVID-19 in Staten Island.
Because of what he does and the shortage in face shields, Perina and the local non-profit Makerspace got together to print the shields.
The shields cost $1 to print, so every dollar people pledge will create one face shield.
The Engineering Teachers and Students at Charlotte Latin School
This group of students and faculty, as well as doctors, want to manufacture 10,000 face shields. They will be using the printers from Charlotte Latin and University of North Carolina at Charlotte. They have a gofundme campaign to raise the money for the PLA and PTEG filaments, elastic, and sanitizing supplies.
The face shields will go to local hospitals in Charlotte.
How to Start 3D Printing PPE
If you happen to have a 3D printer, take a look at the links below to volunteer your machine and start 3D printing PPE:
Image: Michael Perrina
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