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3D Printing to Help the Fight Against Coronavirus Covid-19
Update – Sign up to the 3D Printed PPE website, which is coordinating 3D printer owners with healthcare workers across the globe. Find the group closest to you and help the effort against coronavirus in a coordinated way.
3D printing has been making headlines in recent days as it has been touted in media outlets as a possible savior to our dwindling medical supplies in the fight against the coronavirus.
3D printing companies and businesses with access to 3D printers are being asked to help produce parts that are in short supply in hospitals around the World.
While home 3D printer owners are asking how they can help contribute to the fight themselves.
Firstly, and most importantly, I must break some myths about 3D printing parts for medical use:
You cannot print a ventilator component or protective face mask in your own home, take it to a hospital and expect them to use it. All medical equipment must conform to safety standards specific to the country of use, and of particular importance, it must conform to strict regulations of hygiene and sterility.
No matter how well-meaning, no hospital will accept medical equipment that can’t be proven to adhere to these regulations.
Furthermore, most hospitals use a sterilizing process that uses a wet autoclave process; this heats up to over 120C, which will deform any parts made in the most popular 3D printing material, PLA.
The FDA has a useful guide to 3D printing for medical purposes, which you may find interesting.
However, the World is facing an unprecedented threat that may well overwhelm every medical resource we have available. At that point, some standards may have to be relaxed, and if the choice is between no mask and a 3D printed mask of unproven origin, the choice may be an easy one.
Any research and testing that is done now may be very useful and feed into more reliable and safe methods of manufacture.
Also, there are other professions that are also short on PPE who would benefit from 3D printed supplies. For example, shopkeepers and pharmacy staff who may have a customer-facing role.
3D Printing Masks for Coronavirus Covid-19
As you are more than likely aware, hospitals all over the world are running out of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). PPE is essential to prevent the transmission of coronavirus from patient to doctor and vice versa.
While hospitals are unlikely to accept masks that have been 3D printed at home, plenty of people with public-facing jobs will find these useful. Pharmacy workers, shopkeepers, and volunteers, for example.
One of the best ways the 3D printing community may be able to help the battle against coronavirus is by 3D printing masks which people can use to shield their faces from droplets that may harbor the virus.
Here are the best masks I’ve found that have the necessary STL files and instructions for making.
Billings Clinic Foundation Mask
One of the most well-designed and well-documented 3D printed mask designs is being shared by the Billings Clinic Foundation out of Montana, USA. The Billings mask makes use of existing clinical masks as a filter; by cutting them into 2.5-inch squares, one clinical mask can make fit six 3D printed masks.
These masks are re-usable, although they shouldn’t be shared between users, making them economical.
The designers have made the STL files and source files available. You can find all the information you need to 3d print the masks here.
Prusa Protective Face Shield – RC2
Prusa is well-respected in the 3D printer community, and its reputation can only be improved further with the release of its design for a face shield. The Prusa design requires a clear plastic sheet to make the screen with 0.5mm PETG is recommended.
Prusa has made the STL files for the mask design freely available and has asked that you don’t use the design for profiteering.
The comprehensive guide to making and assemble also includes guidelines for sterilization and storage that will reduce the chances of contamination.
You can find all the information you need to make the Prusa mask here.
One of the most innovative areas to develop from home 3D printer users is a number of designs that help you avoid contracting coronavirus by preventing you from having to touch objects that other people have touched.
A popular device is the door opener, which you carry around in your pocket and use to turn door handles, pull or push open doors, and press buttons on elevators or pin pads.
This is a very simple yet ingenious design that is easy to print on most home 3D printers but can reduce your chances of contracting the virus in public places significantly.
This design by Matthew Davis uses an ingenious foot-operated design which gives you completely hands-free operation.
What are 3D Printing Companies Doing to Help the Coronavirus Effort?
Many businesses that already use or manufacture 3D printers are making use of their design and manufacturing capacity to help the fight against coronavirus.
The work that has been hitting the headlines is companies’ 3D printing parts for ventilators. These are devices that help coronavirus patient’s breath by supplying them with a measured amount of oxygen.
HP is using its large 3D printing resources in a variety of ways to help the coronavirus effort. They are using their 3D printing partner network to validate and manufacture parts for hospitals, such as ventilator valves and face mask parts, as well as innovative solutions such as door handle adaptors that allow you to open a door without touching it with your hands.
You can read HP’s press release about how they are using their resources to fight against coronavirus here.
A Warning on 3D Printing Ventilator Parts
Note, although there has been a lot of talk in the media about 3D printing ventilators, this is a job best left to the professionals, as a faulty ventilator can lead to death, and it is just too likely that a ventilator part printed without help or inspection by an expert could develop a critical fault.
Many companies that already have experience in making ventilator parts are working on using 3D printing to expedite supplies. But this is a job best left to the experts.