3D Printing and COVID-19, May 14, 2020 Update: Arburg, America Makes, Caracol-AM

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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.

After participating in a simulation of a similar such pandemic, the World Economic Forum has been leveraging its might to shape response to the outbreak. The non-governmental organization has highlighted the work that its corporate partners have performed, including the use of JD drones for delivery of medical supplies in China and data gathering about people’s movements in Norway by the country’s leading telecom company. The Davos group also launched the 3D Printing COVID-19 Rapid Response Initiative, which more or less collates the ongoing projects from its partners, ranging from America Makes and Carbon to Roboze and Royal DSM.

Caracol-AM’s automated 3D printing system featuring KUKA robots. Image courtesy of Caracol-AM.

Caracol-AM, a 3D printing provider in Italy, is manufacturing face shields and masks using both its proprietary extrusion system mounted on a KUKA industrial robotic arm and more traditional fused deposition modeling printers. According to KUKA, the company is producing 1,000 parts daily for use by local healthcare workers.

The “Moldable Mask” from Carnegie Mellon University. Image courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University.

America Makes has announced the winners of its Fit to Face – Mask Design Challenge, hosted with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The designs had to meet the requirements of five head form datasets shared by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), before being judged on manufacturability, assembly and instruction. The top designs were the “Vader Small Mask” from Alliance PCB Solutions and “Moldable Mask Small and Moldable Mask Large” from Carnegie Mellon University, which will be hosted on the NIH 3D Print Exchange and America Makes websites. Honorable mentions for the challenge were the “Every Mask” from the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the “Flex Fit Small and Flex Fit Large” from Re:3D.

The “Vader Small Mask” from Alliance PCB Solutions. Image courtesy of Alliance PCB Solutions.

Seattle Children’s has 3D printed clips for its supply of Controlled Air Purifying Respirator helmets. The hospital’s Chief Procurement Officer, Greg Beach, along with its Clinical Engineering team feared a shortage of clips necessary to secure face shields to their CAPR helmets. The Radiology department relied on a CT machine to scan existing clips, before Friedman used Materialise’s Mimics Medical & 3-matic Medical software to reverse engineer them. Using an in-house 3D printer, the hospital was able to fabricate the parts and determine that they fit. Stratasys then offered to print batches of the tools using its V650 Flex stereolithography 3D printer.

A medical worker wearing a CAPR helmet, featuring 3D-printed clips to mount a face shield. Image courtesy of Materialise.

After producing protective glasses using its Allrounder injection molding machines, Arburg is making face masks, injection molded from liquid silicone rubber (LSR) and polypropylene (PP). With a goal of making about 3,500 masks daily, the company will begin by distributing them to its own employees and then providing them to hospitals and care facilities in the district of Freudenstadt in Germany. The mask is made up of a soft mouth cover, moulded from a food-safe LSR material, with PP eyelets for attaching elastic bands. FFP2 or FFP3 filters can then be connected to provide filtration for healthcare workers.

Masks made with injection molding from Arburg. Image courtesy of Arburg.

At full capacity, Arburg believes it could make 15,000 masks weekly. If production were kicked up to a 24-hour schedule, this number could feasibly be doubled. The LSR masks are being made using a larger injection moulding machine at the Arburg Training Center while a smaller system creates the PP shields at its Customer Center. Working in tandem with the larger machine, a six-axis Kuka robotic arm removes the masks from the mold and places them onto a conveyor belt. Meanwhile, a linear Multilift Select robotic system handles the PP shields. The PP shields are then manually attached to the LSR masks, connected to elastic bands, and packed.

Four LSR masks are produced per cycle and then removed by a six-axis robot. About 3,500 multifunctional high-tech masks can be produced per day. Image courtesy of Arburg.

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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