In 2020, the new coronavirus swept the world, affecting all aspects of the world’s economy, transportation, and life on a large scale. The severe epidemic has put people in a tight state. Among the materials for safety protection, masks, eye masks, protective clothing, ventilators, etc. have become the materials we are extremely short of. Under the severe situation, “great gods” all over the world have used 3D printers to print various artifacts to alleviate the serious shortage of medical supplies.
Nowadays, the outbreak of overseas epidemics has become an explosive growth. Shenzhen Jiguang Erwo Technology Co., Ltd. and overseas partners immediately acted to make unique protective equipment with the help of 3D printers.
IVORY COAST Côte d’Ivoire is a developed country in West Africa. Since the outbreak in late March, Côte d’Ivoire has entered a state of emergency, and more epidemic prevention measures have taken effect, such as: shipping control, strict restrictions on domestic and international flights; various public places have also been cancelled. In response to the increasingly serious epidemic, the government encourages everyone to use more methods to deal with the lack of supplies for the epidemic. As a long-term partner with Jiguang Erwo, AYman actively communicated with the manufacturer of Jiguang Erwo for the first time, hoping to use a 3D printer to make goggles frames. The goggles frame produced by the 3D printer is welcomed by many local people, and the goggles frame is made of PLA plastic. He decided to use a large amount of 3D printing equipment to make more goggles frames and donate them to local hospitals and communities for free.
“3D printers can quickly prototype technology. Under special circumstances, it can also print what you want. I am very excited to be able to help more people in need. I hope such a good 3D printing device can cover the entire range. Promote it.” AYman said happily.
Since the outbreak of the epidemic, the 3D printer tool has also become a hot search during the epidemic. Whether overseas or domestic, 3D printed masks, 3D printed mask buttons, 3D printed face masks, etc., these materials all affect our pursuit of 3D printing technology. Aurora Erwo believes that 3D printing technology will follow the development of science and technology, and 3D printing applications will also be applied in various fields, and finally become the gospel of all mankind.
In recent weeks, many multinational companies, local companies, universities, and even individual enthusiasts of 3D printing have joined forces to form a large printing team. They gathered together, hoping to fill the gap in the shortage of medical supplies by using 3D printers to make protective masks, masks, throat swabs and even parts of ventilators needed for the fight against the epidemic.
Ramon Pastor, the acting president of HP 3D printing and digital manufacturing, said: “The reaction ability of 3D printing technology is actually very fast. From conception, design, prototyping to production, it takes time. Very short. For the same process, traditional manufacturers may take days or even weeks to produce.”
The list of products that can use 3D printing also proves that 3D printing technology has the potential to alleviate the medical supply crisis. In the past two months, HP alone has produced more than 50,000 products in its printing centers in the United States and Spain and distributed them to the hospitals and institutions required.
In addition to the just-needed protective masks and masks, in order to prevent infection of bacteria due to hand touch, HP has made a door handle that can be opened and closed with an elbow. In addition, HP is also developing throat swabs that can be used to test the virus, and outdoor emergency ventilators made of 3D printed parts, and these devices will be put into production after passing tests in the next few weeks.
Private self-made medical equipment is booming, but 3D printing technology is still far from being able to fill the gaps in medical equipment.
Although some hospitals have begun to use 3D printed products to increase their supply inventory, for some key medical equipment, such as ventilators, 3D printed products still have certain safety risks. Therefore, the person in charge of the hospital may not be able to use these products with confidence.
At the same time, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also very cautious. So far, only a small part of the submitted applications for 3D printing medical equipment has been approved for production.
However, the FDA also wrote on its official website: “During the special period of the COVID-19 public health emergency, 3D printing technology may help increase the inventory of medical equipment, and 3D printing for certain equipment is indeed more suitable.”
“The War Against the Epidemic”
The team responsible for 3D printing and some medical professionals seem to have high hopes for 3D printing technology.
Many university joint libraries have collected related 3D printing equipment together, and there are also 3D printing enthusiasts who have brought equipment from home to assist. Some smaller companies have begun to cooperate with competitors to speed up the production of medical equipment.
In the downtown area of Newark, New Jersey, Tangible Creative, a 3D printer with 100 3D printers, has cooperated with its competitor MakerBot in Brooklyn, and jointly created a 3D called Covid Makers Response with Columbia University. Print alliance. The alliance can make about 2,000 face masks every day, and volunteers are responsible for sending them to more than 30 hospitals in Manhattan.
Nevaris A.C., Tangible’s co-founder and CEO, said with emotion: “It feels like we are in war now.”
And this is only part of this national movement. Nowadays, companies no matter how big or small they are capable are starting to produce medical equipment.
Major US automakers have now switched to manufacturing respirators, and Apple and other technology companies are designing protective face shields, and companies that manufacture mobile phone accessories and gaming hardware are also turning to manufacturing face shields. Most companies produce in existing manufacturing bases, while Ford said they will produce disposable masks in advanced manufacturing centers.
Anthony Costa is a professor at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City and the director of Sinai Biodesign, a medical innovation center that has been helping hospitals purchase 3D printing equipment. He mentioned: “During the entire crisis, 3D printed The alliance is really breathtaking.”
He added: “In a way, they are doing this in a crowdsourcing way. Everyone with a 3D printer moves the machine out of the basement until the whole city is full. Their equipment to ensure the printing needs of key medical components.”
Earlier this month, President Trump invoked the National Defense Products Act to speed up the production of ventilators and other equipment. Despite this, the delivery time for most of the equipment still has to wait until June.
Most 3D printing companies said that although they cannot replace traditional manufacturing, they lack equipment and the lives of medical staff are threatened. 3D printing technology is relatively fast and has good scalability, which is the most effective solution at the moment.
Greg Kessler, CEO of Shapeways, a 3D printing company, said: “3D printers are produced very quickly, so they can fill short-term supply chain gaps… Obviously, this is why 3D printing technology is in This is the best solution.”
For a long time, the masks produced by Shapeways have been distributed to hospitals in New York, and they are still producing throat swabs and ventilator dispensers that can be used by multiple patients.
3D printing is not perfect
Certain medical equipment is easier to produce than other medical equipment, so many 3D printing are concentrated on the production of equipment such as masks.
At the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, Jeanne Noble, a professor of emergency medicine and the head of coronavirus, told CNN Business in an interview: “Under normal circumstances, the mask should fit comfortably on the forehead. , Cover the mask. And it should not be too long, so that the medical staff will touch their upper chest when looking down and hinder their work. At the same time, it should be made of plastic, because the plastic is transparent and easy to observe the patient. After these requirements are met, the mask can be used officially .”
Other more basic medical equipment such as ventilators and masks are difficult to put into production because the production requirements of these equipment are relatively special, and the production usually requires FDA approval.
But now ventilators are becoming more and more important, especially in some states in the United States. Due to a severe shortage of ventilators, some patients will die.
“As the number of infections continues to rise, the hospital’s senior management has also begun to understand 3D printing technology and think about what risk the lack of ventilators will put patients at?” Dr. Costa of Mount Sinai Hospital said, “As everyone knows, breathing The machine is a life-sustaining device, but it’s not just going to a store to buy parts and then you can use it. As a doctor, we have to conduct research and experiment on some things that are 3D printed, and we can use it only if it meets the requirements. use.”
The FDA also warned that although 3D printing equipment can provide physical barrier protection, it cannot completely guarantee that it can block smaller liquids or particles in the air.
According to the description of the FDA website: “3D printed masks may look more like traditional PPE (personal protective equipment), but they cannot guarantee the same level of protection in terms of isolation, fluid resistance, filtration and infection control.”
An FDA spokesperson said that the FDA’s National Health Center and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs together evaluated 50 3D printing production applications. But so far, only one mask and eight types of masks have been approved for clinical use, and the other four masks for community use.
The spokesperson added: “In the face of the epidemic, we also want to be flexible and change as much as possible to meet the demand for medical equipment supply. As long as the production applications submitted by everyone meet the data requirements, we will promptly approve them.”
But 3D printing is still the hope
At present, it seems that some hospitals continue to select 3D printing equipment that meets the requirements for use.
The University of California, San Francisco has collaborated with 3D printing company Carbon to produce throat swabs for testing for coronavirus. And Professor Noble predicts that throat swabs will be put into use in the next two weeks.
She said: “Test swabs are still in short supply at this stage. If the 3D printing is successful this time, it will have a vital contribution.”
According to a report by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) last year, nearly 600,000 consumer 3D printers with a price of less than US$5,000 were sold in the United States in 2018. Therefore, there is a potentially huge network of 3D printing technology in the United States. Take advantage of it.
Tangible Creative, Hewlett-Packard and Shapeways have already posted their 3D printed medical device design documents online for anyone in need to print.
Eugene Chang, Tangible’s co-founder and director of industrial design, said: “This type of printing does not require a mold. After you download the digital file, you can share it with others and let them continue to print. It’s like operating on a 2D printer by sending an email.”
But Costa, a professor at Mount Sinai Hospital, said that even with the necessary approvals, more advanced equipment requires more industrial printers to operate. According to the FAS report, as of 2018, 140,000 industrial printers have been sold worldwide.
Most 3D printing companies have stated that once the regulatory and testing barriers are resolved, they can quickly move into mass production. Pastor, the acting president of HP 3D printing, said that at HP’s US plant alone, 1 million test swabs can be produced every week.
When the world is caught in a virus panic, although 3D printing technology cannot completely make up for the vacancy of medical equipment, it can indeed alleviate the urgent need to a certain extent.
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