Covid-19 has become the talk of the new decade - and it's only the first year in the 2020s. We've never seen anything bring nations and economies to a standstill like this before. The consensus is largely that this is the "new normal" and we're going to have to get used to this.
In all of the madness of the pandemic, one group has stepped up and grabbed at their chance to shine - 3D Printers. The main problems in the fight against Covid-19 was the availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). PPEs are very important to protect front-line workers against the hazards of the job - mainly, contracting Covid-19 while trying to treat patients. All across the world, 3D Printers and engineers stepped up to start production and help keep front-line workers safe.
3D Printing has some unique advantages in these challenging times:
- Localised production - you can get equipment to where it's needed quickly and easily
- Easily scalable - Add more 3D Printers to scale up production
- Shorten design, prototype and production times
- Reduce reliance on traditional supply lines
Here are some examples of international projects undertaken to help front-line workers:
1. SG Makers Against Covid-19
Started in April 2020 by students from Singapore University of Technology and Design who wanted to bring together resources in Singapore to help in the fight against Covid-19. Currently engaged to print ear-savers for front-line staff, SG Maker's Against Covid-19 is continuing it's engagement with various stakeholders to help plug any holes there may be.
2. LionsForge Singapore
LionsForge is the manufacturer of the CraftLaser Laser Cutter in Singapore. They have been using their Laser Cutters to produce a jig that enables quick production of FaceShields using A4 sized PVC Transparent Sheets.
3. Face Shield by Prusa Research
After coming across a notification from doctors that there was a shortage of face shields and that anyone with a 3D printer could help to 3D print readily available designs, the engineers from Prusa Research sprang into action to do their part. They used the original design as a starting point and made improvements, making it freely available (fully open-sourced) so that anyone from anywhere in the world can 3D Print and support front-line staff.
4. Lung model to show effects of Covid-19
Chinese 3D Printing Service Bureau, Deed3D used a Stratasys J750 Polyjet to make a model of a diseased lung infected with Covid-19. This helped researchers in Wuhan during the initial discovery phases of the virus as the world was learning more.
5. Hands-free door handles by Materialise
Research showed that the virus could live on surfaces such as door handles for up to 3 days. This prompted designers at Materialise to design an additional for door handles to prevent contact between human skin and these handles.
6. Formlabs prints swabs for Covid-19 testing
To help ramp up Covid-19 testing worldwide, starting with the United States of America, Formlabs worked with USF Health and Northwell Health to develop a quick production swab that was suited for use by health professionals all around the world. From idea to production (including testing), it took a total of about 2 weeks. Record time.
7. Italian researchers and engineers 3D print replacement valves
Responding to a call by doctors in Italy, the founder of FabLab, Massimo Temporelli, was able to design and 3d print adapters for ventilators that was used to save at least 10 lives in Italy. The original valve parts retail for about $11000 while the 3D Printed parts had a cost of only $1.