Additive Manufacturing Strategies

3D Printed Ebola Virus — Target or Talisman?

ST Medical Devices

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Uttering the word “Ebola” these days engenders at least mild alarm in even the most sanguine of people, those thousands of miles from the actual “ground zero” of the contagion. The intense and, at times, hysterical media reporting of the latest outbreak of Ebola, which has largely been concentrated in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, does little to dispel the fears of people who are at an extremely low risk of contracting the deadly disease. Rather than emphasizing the unlikelihood of Americans being in danger after a handful of health workers in the US contracted Ebola after working directly with infected patients in the affected areas in West Africa, the press has fanned the flames of fear and misinformation.

Aside from educating the public as thoroughly as possible about the risks, prevention, and reasonable responses to the Ebola threat, what else can be done in the least affected areas like the US? In the spirit of black humor, of laughing at that which most frightens us, a couple of designers have created 3D printed models of the Ebola virus.

ebole vp35

One Shapeways maker known as “tzarembinski” offers the “3DPrintAProtein,” a 3D-printed version of “VP35 Dimer,” one of the seven genes from the Ebola genome. For $41.19 you can purchase the model made from white nylon with a matte finish and “slight grainy feel.” The largest available size of the “VP35 Dimer” is 90 mm or approximately 3 ½ inches.

Another designer ,“cynosurex,” offers an “Ebola Virus Shooting Target” for $19.99 in the Shapeways store, Airsoft3D. Made from similar material to the previous model, this one can be printed in a variety of colors — black seems to be the obvious choice here. “We all want to eradicate the Ebola virus,” reads the text on cynosurex’s Shapeways item page. “Do your part with this Ebola virus target.” Buyers are encouraged to use paintball, air soft, BB, or even real guns to shoot at the target, which is around 4 ½ x ¼ x 2 ½ inches. There is a warning accompanying the sales pitch, which urges caution to the extent that the model may break or shatter, so to be sure to wear protective gear just like when shooting at any other target.ebola

Less than targets, however, the models are more like talismans where the deadly microbes are amplified to larger-than-life size. In a sense, they also mock the hyperbole of the press, which seems to delight in creating a fearful response quite disproportionate to the actual threat.

Have you printed out or purchased this 3D design?  Let us know in the 3D Printed Ebola forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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