3D Printing and COVID-19, May 1, 2020 Update


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Companies, organizations and individuals continue to attempt to lend support to the COVID-19 pandemic supply effort. We will be providing regular updates about these initiatives where necessary in an attempt to ensure that the 3D printing community is aware of what is being done, what can be done and what shouldn’t be done to provide coronavirus aid.

University Hospital Leuven in Belgium has begun using the Materialise Passive NIP (non-invasive positive end-expiratory pressure) mask to treat its first patients. The device is meant to deliver oxygen and high pressure to a patient’s lungs, pushing back the fluids in the lung to allow for greater oxygen absorption into the bloodstream. The mask is made up of a 3D-printed connector that holds together three standard medical devices—a mask, an air filter and a PEEP valve—and is hooked up to an oxygen source. The hospital has determined that the mask works simply and that the combination of its filter and tight seal could reduce the spread of aerosols.

Prof. Arne Neyrinck, Anesthesiologist at UZ Leuven, said of the device, “The genius is in its simplicity. The NIP solution consists of commonly available components, which makes it straightforward to install and easy to use.” He added, “You only have to apply the mask, adjust the desired PEEP level, and that’s it. The mask generates the PEEP itself. There is no need for complex calculations. And since the NIP solution works with oxygen flows between 5 and 15 L/min, it can be applied in any standard hospital room which has an oxygen supply.”

Neyrinck pointed out that the device could be used to support patients being weaned off of invasive ventilators in order to possibly discharge them from the ICU a day sooner or patients with low oxygen saturation that do not require ICU treatment.

Materialise is in the process of working with hospitals on post-market clinical trials for additional guidance regarding how to best use the device. The 3D printable connector is now commercially available in select European countries hospitals as an emergency solution in compliance with local regulation.

A molecular diagnostic device being built with 3D printing at Imperial College. Image courtesy of Imperial College.

Imperial College London is using 3D Systems’ Figure 4 system to create a handheld diagnostic device for molecular testing of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The lab-on-a-chip platform is meant to perform an analysis of nasopharyngeal samples in under 30 minutes. A batch of over 100 units will be manufactured for clinical validation at Hammersmith Hospital in London this June. Production will then be increased over the next six months to perform 1,000 tests monthly.

In the U.K., 3D printing curriculum developer PrintLab and Manchester Metropolitan University’s PrintCity digital manufacturing center are offering a free lesson plan for creating COVID-19 solutions. The lesson is meant to teach students about the transmission of viruses on commonly touched surfaces, encouraging them to create items that can be attached to surfaces to reduce the spread of disease. The ‘Pandemic Products‘ lesson includes educational videos, as well as TinkerCAD and Fusion 360 tutorials.

3D printing service bureau FATHOM is leveraging its in-house Multi Jet Fusion technology to 3D print nasopharyngeal test swabs with the ability to make 100,000 weekly. After FATHOM customer Abiogenix designed the most-preferred swab, according to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s recent clinical trial, the service provider is aiming to ramp up production to a million swabs per week.

Testing swabs made using HP technology by FATHOM. Image courtesy of Abiogenix.

Private wireless company Rajant Corporation in Pennsylvania is leveraging two ‘Ender Pro 3’ 3D printers to produce PLA face masks. These masks cannot be used to substitute N95 masks, having not been certified, but the company believes they can be used in the general population. To learn more about the differences between various masks (and their safety), read our interview with Dr. Beth Ripley, Director of the VA 3D Printing Network. To learn more about the variety of ventilator projects (and their safety), read our interview with Todd Goldstein, PhD, director of 3D Design and Innovation at Northwell Health.

As the pandemic continues to grip the world, we will continue to provide regular updates about what the 3D printing community is doing in response. As always, it is important to keep safety in mindremain critical about the potential marketing and financial interests behind seemingly good humanitarian efforts from businesses, and to do no harm.

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