3 Dimensional printing technology has contributed to the creation of extremely accurate models that are used to help scientists and doctors research the human body. However, ‘How is 3D printing helping in the battle against COVID-19?’
Covid-19 has created tremendous pressure on on supply chain of Personal Protective Equipments (PPE). The borders of many countries across the world have fully shut down and restricted the supply chain of even medical products needed to fight against the coronavirus. Prices for PPE have increased since the COVID-19 outbreak started; supply is going to the highest bidder (1).
Adding to that, not all the countries would have the ability to produce the equipments. 3D printing societies worldwide have become a major driving force in the effort to create safe wear for those most in need. 3D printers can be of use to speed-up the process of production. WHO has demanded to increase the manufacturing of PPE by 40% (1). Shortages of PPE is leaving the frontline healthcare worker, doctors and patients at high risk of transmission.
1. Prusa researchers from Prague have designed protective shields to help protect the frontline staff. They are using heavily discounted, high quality PPE material, specially designed for the production of masks. 3D printers can produce 800 of these in a single day. The design of these shield mask is a open source design and can be modified and produced by any country (2). Prusa Research has already produced and donated 35,000 shields to Czech Republic. Moreover, a man in New York, who runs a 3D printing store can produce 4000 shields per day.
2. Italy has been one of the highest infected countries. An hospital in Brescia, has recently run out of respiratory valves, which helps connect with machines. The suppliers are unable to meet the increasing demand of these valves. CEO from engineering firm from Brescia, visited the hospital to inspect the valves and immediately created the a prototype. The CEO and his colleague teamed up with the local manufacturing company and successfully produced 100 vavles in just 24 hours using 3D printers (3).
3. 3D Printing of quarantine booths could ease the burden on the hospitals. The use of this technology in construction has just started to take up and hold a bright future because of its vast advantages. One of the advantage can be see during crisis like this when manufacturing needs to be fast and to create a temporary dwelling in an emergency. The 3D printing wards as mention in the image below take just 2 hours and could accommodate unto 2 people. Currently these quarantine booths are manufactured by asian company Winsun. The company also claims that the contrition is twice as strong as that of concrete constructs. This initiative could be used in more areas of USA where the numbers of positive cases are growing exponentially (4).
4. A vast number of hospitals in are facing shortage of ventilators, which assists the infected in breathing. A Bengaluru based start-up has come with the solution by which one ventilator can be used to cater two patients instead of one. This can be done simply by 3D printing the splitters that can divide the supply of oxygen into two different valves (6). However, the production of 3D printed ventilators has been successful and approved by the medical centre. The device has relatively less number of components and easier to assemble with daily production of 30 to 100 units (3).
3 Dimensional printing has a significant advantage in present crisis; as businesses have been encouraged to operate from home, ensuring that workers 'health and safety is protected in all ways, and 3D printing plants can be easily controlled by one person on the floor (5). Covid-19 has disrupted the Global supply chain. 3D printing of necessary medical equipments has been on great support to the hospital and the workers. However, it does poe some financial, environmental and health concerns have not been fully researched. Additionally, the impact of these devices have not been throughly studied.
It has been said by the WHO director that, we cannot stop Covid-19 without protecting the protectors of the infected people (1). Additionally, most countries run out of masks, a simple resource to keep safe of the infection. Due large scarcity of the mask online and in store I was traveling from the UK to India without any medical masks. Even huge platform like Amazon was out of medical masks at that time. Therefore, it is essential for all the countries to produce medical equipment’s as fast as possible to help those in need and to match up the speed of this spreading virus. 3D printing technology is the perfect technology to support the ongoing weapon free battle of coronavirus.