3D Printing and COVID-19, May 5, 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.

A Formlabs 3D printer mass producing ventilator adapters. Image courtesy of Formlabs.

Formlabs has received emergency use authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to 3D print adapters designed to convert bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP) machines into ventilators. What makes the adapter so significant, as discussed in our interview with the team behind the adapter at Northwell Health, is its simplicity. The T-shaped part makes it possible to connect endotracheal tubes to BiPAP machines, which can then be used ventilator systems, thus increasing the supply of ventilators without the use of potentially risky ventilator splitting devices.

A batch of 3D printed ventilator adapters from Northwell Health. Image courtesy of Formlabs.

Formlabs is now producing these parts at a rate of 3,000 per day on a fleet of 150 printers and distributing them across the U.S. According to the company, this makes Formlabs the first 3D printing company to get EUA, as opposed to, say, a healthcare provider that has EUA and is using 3D printed parts. The Boston-based 3D printer manufacturer is also involved in the additive production of nasopharyngeal swabs that have undergone clinical trials for SARS-CoV-2 testing.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has created a variety of respirator face masks to help with supply shortages. While the team published test data for fit, breathability and comfort for three different masks, they are not certified by NIOSH or any medical institution. In addition to uploading the designs, JPL provided instructions for creating custom filters made from off-the-shelf filters or cut up N95 masks or HEPA filter material. The designs include:

  • The JPL Performance Respirator: Meant to replicate face sealing half-face respirators, such as those from 3M, through the use of two-piece assembly that includes a flexible portion, which provides a conformal seal against the wearer’s face, and rigid element, to which external filter cartridges can be attached.
  • The JPL Comfort Respirator: Able to be printed and assembled with little expertise and using non-specialized equipment.
  • JPL Conforming Respirators: To be made with flexible filament and designed to conform to a wide range of facial shapes.

Image courtesy of NASA JPL.

The story comes shortly after news of JPL researchers creating a high-pressure ventilator prototype specifically tailored to help coronavirus patients. The Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally (VITAL) system works like a traditional ventilator but can offer more oyxgen at higher pressures than typical models.

The VITAL ventilator system is meant to be produced more quickly and with fewer parts so that traditional machines can be freed up for other patients. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL.

Because it is meant to be faster to build and easier to maintain, with fewer parts, the machine is designed only to provide patients with only three to four months of therapy, compared to other systems meant to last years. VITAL has passed patient simulation tests at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and NASA has received EUA from the FDA.

Ai Build in London has used its AiSync software to design a face shield bracket that can be produced on desktop 3D printers in roughly 60 seconds. Rather than 3D print the part in flat, horizontal layers, the software rlied on a freeform, multi-axis path to create a curved design of a single strand with variable thickness contouring the shape of a human head. The design, which is available for download on GitHub, is meant to be more comfortable to wear and stronger.

The streamlined Ai Build face shield design. Image courtesy of Ai Build.

The new PARC Institute RemakerSpace at Cardiff University has partnered with global logistics company DSV to produce face shields using the Multi Jet Fusion systems at DSV’s ISO9001 healthcare facility. AM engineer Hrishikesh Pawar, a DSV employee and member of PARC, has ensured that the face shield design is up to National Health Services standards for NHS workers in Wales.

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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