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3D printing initiatives aim to alleviate COVID-19 equipment shortages

por John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | April 01, 2020
3D Printing
Companies worldwide are engaging in 3D printing to supply hospitals with equipment during the coronavirus pandemic.
A number of industries are stepping up to supply hospitals with necessary resources to care for patients infected with COVID-19 including those in the 3D printing profession.

From cotton swabs to protective personal equipment, companies, universities and research institutes are producing 3D printed replicas to meet the demands of overworked health systems which are seeing depletions in their supplies of masks, ventilators and other crucial equipment.

Stratasys for instance, recently assembled a coalition of members to create 3D printed face shields and visors that cover the entire face of clinicians when caring for coronavirus patients. The coalition, to date, has amassed more than 150 members, including Boeing, General Atomics, Medtronic, Dunwoody College of Technology, the University of Central Florida, and the University of Minnesota.

“I have never seen collaboration across our industry the way I’ve been seeing it over the last couple of weeks,” Stratasys Healthcare segment leader, Scott Drikakis, who is directing the company’s COVID-19 response in the Americas, said in a statement. “The need is dire, but we are getting the kind of commitments from our coalition partners that will make a real difference, and help buy time to scale up the manufacturing of shields and other essential supplies.”

The coalition is currently producing supplies for more than 30 different health systems, and has received requests for 350,000 face shields. It initially aimed to produce up to 5,000 by the end of last week, with plans to boost supply to more than 11,000 this week and 16,000 or more the following week.

There is also a particular shortage in nasal swabs, according to ABC News. One company addressing this challenge is Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, New York. The company is using a template to produce around 2,000 to 3,000 nasal swabs a day for immediate use, and has made it publicly available so that other businesses can 3D print swabs for providers and take the full burden off manufacturers.

"This swab is the first line of defense, so to speak, against the coronavirus, because we need to test people and know if they're positive or not. And in order to do that, we have to collect samples,” Dr. Todd Goldstein, director of 3D Design and Innovation at Northwell Health, told ABC News, adding that “anyone who has these printers and materials — we're talking dental labs, university hospitals, high schools, middle schools, universities, engineering schools, even companies that use these printers for prototyping ... if they get the correct resin, they can also make these swabs and help with the shortages.”

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