The latest 3D printing efforts against Covid-19

The latest 3D printing efforts against Covid-19

As many of us adjust to new routines and take extra precautions to look after the heath and wellbeing of our families and colleagues, we are all too familiar with the escalating nature of the coronavirus crisis.

The additive manufacturing (AM) sector is an interesting place to be amidst this pandemic. As governments and medical professionals call out for manufacturers to step up supply of equipment and devices such as ventilators and protective gear to help treat patients, AM companies have answered the call in their droves, citing speed of production and distributed manufacturing networks as key enablers. It has been almost impossible to keep up with the number of initiatives setup to help deliver these parts so we’re endeavouring to share as much as we can.

This will, of course, be a developing story so to keep you up to date with the latest news, consortiums, and calls to action, the TCT editorial team will be regularly updating this blog with news on the 3D printing industry’s response to this growing crisis.

Singapore-based 3D printing company Structo is set to begin deliveries for 1 million 3D printed nasopharyngeal (NP) testing swabs this week to help in the fight against the COVID-19.

Working in collaboration with authorities and healthcare professionals in Singapore, the dental 3D printer manufacturer is scaling up to deliver over 1 million pre-sterilised NP testing swabs each week to fulfil orders from healthcare institutions and other key parties.

Since the start of the pandemic, Structo has worked with other 3D printing partners, universities and medical institutions to help ramp up COVID-19 testing across the region. Whilst Singapore has deployed effective contact tracing mechanisms to curb the spread of the virus, continued large scale testing is seen as critical in allowing it to return to a state of normality.

Structo’s 3D printed NP testing swabs are FDA registered medical devices, manufactured in accordance with Structo’s ISO 13485 QMS requirements from biocompatible material, and sterilised and packed individually to ISO 11135 standards.

Huub van Esbroeck, Founder of Structo commented: “In this climate, we recognize the importance of the availability of testing kits and the strain that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on the economy and supply chains worldwide. We hope that our in-house manufacturing capabilities will be able to help alleviate some of those problems and help us avoid a shortage of critical testing equipment globally.”

Week commencing June 1st

SLM Solutions and MAGNET partner to deliver face shields to medical workers

SLM Solutions has been harnessing its metal additive manufacturing technology to produce injection moulding tools to assist the Manufacturing & Advocacy Growth Network (MAGNET)’s production of face shield headbands.

It has allowed the group to move quicker to supply much needed PPE equipment to medical professionals across the State of Ohio during the COVID-19 crisis.

“We needed the parts as soon as possible. The speed and throughout of [SLM’s] quad laser machine has available was a critical aspect of the decision to work together,” commented Dave Pierson, Senior Design Engineer at MAGNET.

Sulzer orders 6,000 face masks from Essentium

Essentium has received an order of 6,000 of its protective face masks made with its High Speed Extrusion 3D printing equipment from engineering firm Sulzer.

The kits will be worn by employees in Sulzer locations in North and South America. Sulzer also commissioned Essentium to design a child version of the mask kit and donated a quantity to its chosen charity, Todays Harbor for Children, a La Porte-based residential community for youth.

The reusable mask frame, designed for non-medical use, is additively manufactured in Essentium’s TPU74D material, which allows for easy cleaning, and is used with a single-use filtration media. Essentium’s face masks conform to FDA EUA guidelines and the filtration media to ASTM Level 2 and BFE97.

“The global shortage of masks could have made it challenging for us to remain open,” commented Darayus Pardivala, President of Rotating Equipment Services Americas at Sulzer. “Essentium’s ability to produce a quality solution at scale and to our timeline solves the issue. That they also agreed to partner with us to produce a child version of the kit underlines the shared values of our companies.”

Blake Teipel, CEO and co-founder of Essentium added: “Where the supply chain for PPE is faltering, Essentium and 3D manufacturing can and has stepped in. To play our part in helping essential businesses stay open and keep our essential workers safe is hugely rewarding.”

Carbon tested swabs undergo Stanford University study

A Stanford University study suggests Carbon’s 3D printed Lattice Swab, designed and produced for the testing of COVID-19, has a lower false negative rate compared to traditional flocked swab, especially in patients with a low viral load.

It has been reported that in several cases at Stanford and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center the 3D printed Lattice Swab correctly identified known COVID-positive patients that the standard nasopharyngeal swab had missed.

Over 400 patients participated in the clinical assessment, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, though the researchers not a larger study would be required to draw definitive conclusions. More information on the study can be found here.

Honda moves from 3D printing to injection moulding to deliver tens of thousands of face shields

Honda has donated 70,000 face shields to healthcare workers at 305 medical facilities in 45 of the United States of America using, initially 3D printing, and scaling with plastic injection moulding.

Another 60,000 face shields are to be donated in the coming days.

Honda began manufacturing face shields in March using a network of 3D printers at five manufacturing facilities, but as demand continued to increase, harnessed its in-house injection moulding capability to deliver tens of thousands of units. After studying various design in consultation with healthcare professionals, he team of Honda engineers began building a special die to enable the plastic injection moulding equipment to produce over 3,000 face shields per hour.

“It was a comprehensive effort with our Honda design and manufacturing teams working together to quickly solve this challenge,” said Eric Walli, Regional Planning Leader of Honda North America. “We were looking at materials, doing scientific work to understand if what we put in a face shield would be safe for humans to wear and all of this was occurring as we sought to rapidly begin, and then ramp up production.”

ELIX Polymers donating medical grade filament to manufacturers

Ford Motor Company is among the organisations additively manufacturing protective face shields with filament donated by ELIX Polymers.

The automotive company is manufacturing 300 units a day at its Valencia site, accessing ELIX Polymers’ ABS 3D-FC material through a collaboration between the National Federation of Innovative Business Groups and Cluster (FENAEIC) and the Advanced Materials Cluster of Catalonia (ClusterMAV). Research organisation AIMPLAS and two plastic processors, PESL and SIIM, are also using this material to produce protective equipment.

“Many companies with 3D printing capability are putting their equipment at the disposal of the community to produce medical parts. Demand for 3D printing filaments in Spain is being channelled through the digital platform, an initiative linking hospitals’ needs and 3D printing production resources, as well as ClusterMAV and FENAEIC,” commented Luca Chiochia, Business Development Manager at ELIX Polymers. “Ford and Aimplas are both producing filaments in ELIX ABS 3D-FC and are also making masks and face protection companies in their own departments.”

Materials developed by ELIX Polymers for the healthcare sector are compliant with the ISO 10993 and USP class VI biocompatibility standards. They have been included in Drug Master Files (DMF) for use in medical and food contact applications in both Europe and the USA.

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Creatz3D 3D prints respiratory swab collection training aid

Creatz3D, a Singapore-based reseller of 3D printing equipment, has developed a training aid for respiratory swab collection in the fight against COVID-19.

The new ‘3D printed Medical Manikins’ have been designed to address the growing need to ramp up training for swab testing to determine if a person has been infected. According to Creatz3D, training for swab testing in Singapore is typically carried out by healthcare professionals on a volunteer basis and existing medical manikins are deemed unsuitable for accurate simulation of the three essential procedures for COVID-19 testing including nasal mid-turbinate swabs, nasopharyngeal swabs and oropharyngeal swabs.

The manikin was designed using anatomical 3D models derived from sister company AuMed’s CT and MRI library which were then put together in a 3D printable model using Materialise’s Mimics Innovation Suite (MIS) Medical. The team were able to design and 3D print the device within four days using the Stratasys J750, allowing for multiple colours and materials to be used to differentiate parts of the anatomy and simulate soft tissue.

By creating life-size manikins specifically for respiratory swab collection training, the model provides a tangible, life-like representation of the nasal, mouth, and throat internal structures to enable accurate demonstrations with standard medical-grade nasal swabs to ensure safer execution of swab collection and encourage interaction between trainer and trainee.

GE Additive engineer develops simplified, low-cost 3D printable face mask

A GE Additive engineer has designed an open source protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Mark Fuller, a Cincinnati-based engineer, typically used to designing parts for aircraft, rockets and race cars, saw the need for a low-cost flexible alternative to the PPE shortage amid the coronavirus pandemic following a shopping trip back in March to acquire protective gear for a woodworking project. Fuller found that standard equipment like face masks, gloves and goggles were nowhere to be found in local stores, while online, prices had risen significantly. Already a keen tinkerer, Fuller decided he could could up with an alternative.

The mask consists of a thin ring of 3D printed plastic which can be fitted with any fabric to act as a filter and rubber bands to attach to the wearer’s face. Fuller posted the design in a Facebook group focused on open source COVID-19 solutions and used the feedback to create a second generation with a thinner nose area and more flexible material.

Speaking about his design on the GE Reports blog, Fuller said: “I designed it in a way that you can take the same core geometry and go and injection mould them or go and laser cut them … What machines are not being utilised for production today can be used to help save lives.”

Fuller produced a number of masks on his home 3D printer, each taking around 15 minutes to print at a cost of around 9 cents worth of plastic, and began delivering them to local hospitals under the GE Additive COVID-19 Task Force. While the mask isn’t an alternative to standard N95, the design has been deemed suitable for community use against coronavirus by the National Institutes of Health.

GE has since offered the design to AM leaders at the U.S. Navy’s Air Systems Command as a result of ongoing work around a 3D printed face shield designed to work with a hard hat to keep sailors healthy in the confined spaces of warships. Now the U.S. Navy is printing Fuller’s masks by the tens of thousands while an additional 800 masks are also being produced daily by two non-commissioned officer at a Marine Corps air station in Japan, amongst many others around the globe.

Liz McMichael, additive manufacturing integrated program team lead for the U.S. Navy, commented: “The GE face mask design gives us a way to immediately provide protective gear to our sailors and Marines anywhere there is 3D printer available – including aboard our ships and submarines, as well as with our expeditionary forces. It was fantastic to have a design that afforded us the opportunity to rapidly respond to this urgent fleet need.”