As the situation appears to get stabilized worldwide, there is still a challenge to support medical centers and hospitals with the basic personal protective equipment (PPE) and respirators. Due to the sudden, pandemic situation, there has been a big shock on the medical industry and the healthcare system. Basically, we have witnessed what does it mean to disrupt the supply chain of the first medical aids. As a lack of basic, medical equipment has been affecting mostly Europe and the United States, 3D printing could bring the solution internationally.
In front, there was Italy with the lack of CPAP and PEEP respiratory systems, ventilators, and face masks when they were needed the most. This resulted mainly in putting pressure on the local communities and professionalist in the 3D printing medical industry to find the solution and fight the pandemic situation locally.
Start-ups such as Isinnova, which came up with the method of fast and efficient 3D printed ventilator splitter, supported a lot of patients and turned out to be very effective. In general, the collaboration of the companies, engineering teams, medical staff and suppliers contributed to the efficient and effective way of dealing with the challenge that was put on the communities unexpectedly.
What can be produced by 3D printing in terms of a lack of medical equipment?
Addictive manufacturing can be implemented in producing personal protective equipment (PPE) or face masks and shields. The aim is to create reusable, easily sterilizable, and disinfectable tools that could be available and affordable for the local communities, medical centers, clinics, and hospitals. Also, produced by 3D printing methods, they need to ensure these devices meet specific requirements, the effectiveness of the materials, and functionalities. The challenge may be, however, to produce items like that on a large scale. That’s why the solution would be to connect local manufacturers, technicians, engineers, and medical teams to work on what’s the most needed and on-demand equipment. Such an approach can turn out to be the most effective in producing 3D printed PPE.
The few examples of the personal protective equipment produced by the following, addictive manufacturing method, may include:
- Powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR)
- Controlled Air Purifying Respirator (CAPR).
- N95 and N90 masks
More specifically, there have already been companies that successfully printed out PPEs using 3D Printing. These involved:
-Nanohack mask by Cooper3D printed out by PLA and with the use of active materials. The mask protects especially from spreading the liquid through the air. Also, it’s recyclable and includes biocompatible polymer in its structure.
-Protective Oculo Respirator by ViriMASK – even more efficient protection, preventing the bacterias, aerosols and other infections to get through the mouth, nose, or eyes. Due to multiple filters, it can be also reused.
Also, speaking about the specifics of respiratory systems such as automated, pressure-controlled systems, flexible membranes, or the possibility of controlling flow valves, the 3D printed ventilators can be easily adjustable to multiple patients in different conditions. Generally, there are unlimited possibilities of creating equipment with very in-detailed requirements, as long as we can make it both useful and affordable.
What are the challenges of applying 3D printing while fighting COVID-19?
As the procedure may appear to be clear, quite simple, and definitely worth to be implemented, there are still some limitations. First, regulatory and all the requirements that the FDA needs to handle. Luckily, for now, in the middle of the pandemic situation, there has been stated that the organization has a “no objection” policy according to the innovative way of producing the most needed these times, personal protective equipment (PPE). It means that as long as it’s safe, effective and low-risk, it can be widely used. To be efficiently used in a fighting pandemic situation like COVID-19 and lack of medical equipment, in addition, the high quality of the 3D printed PPE needs to be ensured. It is also recommended to encourage local collaboration a decentralized communication in order to supply the local supply chain. What’s more, safety protocols have to be always checked and reviewed. Assuring the fulfillment of these all requirements is the way to enhance an effective way to fight the global, pandemic situation.
Do you agree? Share your thoughts about 3D printing advantages in terms of fighting COVID-19 in the comment below!