3D Printing Community Steps Up to Help Save Lives

    By: Lisa Chai, Sr. Research Analyst

    Additive manufacturing solution providers and designers have responded to the global COVID-19 crisis by helping the healthcare system; specifically, by supporting its supply chains around the world. One way they are helping is by creating 3D-printed face masks and ventilators. The US only has about 160,000 ventilators available, according to a 2018 analysis by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. However, the American Hospital Association projects that the number of COVID-19 patients that will need ventilators will rise to 960,000 this year.

    One manufacturer, Materialise, is working on several fronts to respond to the pandemic, from developing certified medical devices to manufacturing protective devices for healthcare workers. Building off of three decades of 3D printing and experience with 70 percent of the top 30 medical device companies and with many of the world’s leading hospitals, they have been able to utilize their know-how to quickly design certified solutions. As one of the few companies that meets all of the requirements included in the new safety guidance issued by the European Commission, Materialise is helping produce 3D-printed valves for ventilators, and, to help protect healthcare workers, face shield visors and hands-free door openers. Recently, Materialise has partnered with the Italian company Isinnova to help design emergency oxygen masks based on existing scuba masks. Isinnova announced that 500 of these 3D-printed respirator masks have already been created in Italy to help patients in need.


    3D Systems and Stratasys are also supporting the global community by manufacturing 3D-printed ventilator valves and face shields. When a hospital in Italy with 250 coronavirus patients requiring breathing machines recently ran out of the respiratory valves needed to connect the patients to the machines, it was 3D Systems’ printers that helped produce the necessary valves in less than 24 hours. Stratasys mobilized a consortium of companies that included Medtronic and Boeing to produce face shields. The first shipment from this consortium shipped five thousand 3D-printed full-face shields in three days at no cost. These face shields have a 3D-printed frame and transparent plastic shield to provide maximum protection to healthcare workers. Stratasys expects to work around the clock to meet the need for 3D printers, 3D-printed parts, and necessary materials, including biocompatible materials.


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