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3D Printing Rises to Coronavirus Medical Supply Shortage


3D Printing Rises to Coronavirus Medical Supply Shortage

With health care systems across the world racing to acquire the medical supplies needed to treat COVID-19 patients, 3D printing is contributing to the efforts.

In Italy, one of the countries hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, an engineering startup was able to successfully prototype a respirator valve and deliver 100 parts to a hospital in roughly 48 hours from start to finish. The company has the capacity to produce upward of 100 3D printed valves per day and is also on the cusp of producing medical masks.

Meanwhile, a couple who owns a 3D printing company in upstate New York began preparing to produce masks as cases of the novel coronavirus first appeared in the region. With support from their county, the couple put their 16 printers to work to fulfill a first order of 300 masks for a local testing clinic.

Leading brands are leveraging their 3D printing technology to find creative solutions for medical manufacturing on a large scale. HP said it was mobilizing its 3D printing team and Digital Manufacturing Partner Network to design, validate and produce essential parts for medical responders and hospitals.

“This includes parts such as ventilator valves, breathing filters and face mask clasps, as well as entirely new parts such as plastic door handle adaptors which enable easy elbow opening to prevent further spread of the virus,” HP President and CEO Enrique Lores said in a press release. “We will make available any HP proprietary design files for these parts so they can be produced anywhere in the world and are also helping end-customers bridge potential supply chain interruptions by expanding distributed print-on-demand capabilities.”

SmileDirectClub, which produces its teeth straightening products through 3D printing, has opened its U.S. manufacturing facility to partner with medical supply companies and health organizations. 

More than 300 engineers and medical professionals have banded together on Facebook under the group, Open Source COVID19 Medical Supplies, to build a ventilator completely from readily available and 3D printed materials. 

And in Belgium, the 3D printing company, Materialise, developed a hands-free door opener that easily fits on an existing door handle to minimize the spread of germs.  

CNET explains the evolution of 3D printing from buzzworthy to supply-worthy:

“Also called additive manufacturing, 3D printing got an early foothold as a way to design prototypes. Since then, it’s also crept into production lines for finished products. The unusual shapes of 3D-printed elements let companies build plastic components that are lighter than metal alternatives but couldn’t be made with conventional injection molding methods, for example.”

While much of New York grinds to a halt, the state has determined Duggal to be an essential business and can continue to operate at reduced levels. This designation is in part due to the ongoing work we are doing for airports and retailers on COVID-19 related signage and virus mitigation. Printed communication is essential in time of emergencies. Additionally, the Governor of NY has asked manufacturers across the state for help on producing much needed medical equipment. Our 3D printers are up for the task, as we build innovative designs on items that might help our community at this difficult time. We all have a part over the next few weeks to play, whether that is staying home to prevent the spread or potentially helping our country with vitally needed items.

While 3D printing is by no means a silver bullet to stock every medical facility, everywhere, it is extremely inspiring amid a global crisis to see real, palpable contributions from the printing community. Hat off—and heart out— to all.