With The World Health Organization (WHO) statement about the pandemic disease of COVID-19, the global healthcare, economic situation and supply chain system has been seriously affected. The hospitals were struggling with the lack of basic equipment since the very beginning and the situation became critical within a few days. The 3D printing and Point-of-Care industry main goal is to support hospitals, medical centers and clinics to provide faster diagnosis and better treatment. However, the question is how this mission is applied in the pandemic coronavirus conditions?
In general, 3D printing can be collaborative in case of supporting local hospitals and medical centers with the medical equipment they need as soon as possible. Instead of focusing on international and large-scale manufacturing of implants, replacements and prototypes, 3D printing may help with the current urgent medical needs for a while. These include respirator masks, nasal swabs or face shields as well as ventilator parts. Except for that, it can also support other industries such as engineering. As the new regulations were postponed for the next year, 3D manufacturers can still provide the devices in accordance with the remaining ones.
3D Printing support for the hospitals
The shortage of supplies such as respitories, ventilation or masks can make a place for 3D printing support. The 3D printed ventilator splitter or connector may be one of them. In the US, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), presents a “no objection’’ kind of policy according to that, which seems to be a green light for 3D printing manufacturers. As outlined by Futurum, this process can be seen in Siemens Additive Manufacturing (AM) Network, which enabled simples and much faster order-to-delivery production of the ventilator elements through the collaborative platform where the hospitals, medical centers and doctors can easily register and order connecting 3D printing providers, the medical community and its users.
The collaboration between local companies, medical centers, hospitals, engineers and 3D printing manufacturers can be the key to make the approach effective. For the reasons of safety and the lowest risk possible during COVID-19, the community must ensure a clear communication and organized process. All the quality features, standards and requirements must be fulfilled and protocols should be always reviewed and provided. The partnerships between the hospitals and 3D printing manufacturers have to be beneficial and ensure that the implementation of the resources can be applied.
Regarding the regulatory bodies, they should proceed as fast as possible, however still taking into consideration the liability of the materials quality in the 3D printing and other quality measures. Safe implementation as well, as disinfection and sterilization of the healthcare facilities should be the priority.
3DPOC threats and opportunities
The advantage that 3D printing may gain through the pandemic COVID-19 situation is the awareness of innovative solutions and collaboration between healthcare professionals, engineers, and 3D manufactures. Through the technology that is in the disposal of an increasing number of hospitals and the medical industry in general, Point-Of-Care 3D printing can contribute to the current supply chain system, lowering the time of the delivery of the resources and providing a rapid turnaround.
The limitation may be seen though in clinical trials, tests, and pricing demands. While the challenge is to provide the devices as soon as it is possible there is a lack of time for a detailed check-up. It goes also with the regulatory requirements that need to be accomplished. The 3D printing machines and material price are not yet affordable enough to be purchased by most of the medical centers and the solution would be to adjust it properly.
Combating the pandemic COVID-19 situation, may not be a good moment for 3D printing point-of-care lab implementation, but for sure it’s the right one to prove that the concept is worth the investment. In the current situation of the crisis, having Point-Of-Care 3D printing right around the corner would be much time and cost-efficient. However for the moment being, the collaboration, delivery, and support from the 3D printing manufacturers side is the most beneficial for the global pandemic crisis.
Do you agree? Share with us your opinion and let us know how do you think 3D Printing industry can help us fight the pandemic COVID-19.