As Coronavirus spreads globally, at least 170 countries are witnessing a regular increase in the number of infected patients. With over 482,000 patients and over 21,000 deaths across the world, the medical forces around the globe have been on high alert. While the healthcare system is desperately engaged in trying to minimize the effects of this pandemic and reduce the number of affected patients, one major challenge they’re facing is the shortage in supply of essential medical equipment. Medical additive manufacturing is coming out as a solution to this challenge.

Additive Manufacturingis a process in which different objects are made using 3D printing technology with the help of available 3D model data. It has propped up as a crucial resource in the fight against Novel Coronavirus.

Additive Manufacturing and Healthcare System

Millions of professionals are working day and night to fight the Novel Coronavirus. Still, without access to the proper medical equipment in their arsenal,hospitals and medical centers will be as helpless as the victims in this battle.

A recent study by The American Hospital Association reported that COVID-19 could affect as many as 4.8 million people, and to provide them proper medical care hospitals and care centers will depend on ventilators. These ventilators are used as a life support treatment to assist patients that can’t breathe on their own. The Society of Critical Care Medicine projects that at least 950,00 coronavirus patients in the US could require ventilators, but at this time the our nations’ hospitals only have approximately 160,000 ventilator units between them.

In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a warning to the general public stating that given the demand and the increasing number of patients, the city could quickly run out of medical supplies in just about two weeks. Given the situation, the process of manufacturing the pieces of equipment and their repairs must be accelerated to save the maximum number of lives.

In such a situation, different avenues of manufacturing and repairs must be explored sincethe regular ones are unable to meet the exponentially increasing demands. As of March 22, the FDA has updated guidence to allow flexibility around and expand the availability of ventilators and respiratory equipment for the treatment of patients during this public health emergency. These changes will allow the use of alternative materials and components to allow for more flexible material sourcing. Such measures has allowed numerous additive manufacturing companies (and local makers) to take steps and come forward to use their 3D printing technology to assist the healthcare system.

To tackle the uprising of COVID-19 and the increasing demand for medical equipment, healthcare professionals and technicians are working together towards medical additive manufacturing by bringing 3D printing closer to the point of need. This niche manufacturing method, has not always been a dominate participant in healthcare departments. The ability to successfully manufacture needed equipment by using the various technologies and materials of 3D printing is becoming recognized as a growing resource with the spread of Novel Coronavirus.

In the difficult times we have witnessed globally, there have been many examples of such crowd-sourced efforts that have brought about unique solutions in times of need. One such popular case was when Italian 3D printing start-up, Isinnova, recognized the imminent need of an essential venturi valve that is used to connect respirators to oxygen masks. This is a real example where the usual suppliers of these medical valves were unable to address the exponentially increasing demand, thus, causing a shortage in hospitals. Isinnova was able to use its 3D printing technology and successfully built about 100 prototypes, which were accepted by the local doctors.

Not all solutions need to be technical or medically focused. A global provider of 3D printing services, Materialise, also participated by sharing the data of 3D printed hands-free door handle attachments. This would help to reduce the transmission of Coronavirus from one of the most commonly used mediums, doors. If used in public places or in work environments, this device could dramatically lessen the contact between people as the 3D printed equipment allows its users to operate door handles or pulls with their forearms.

Here in the States, people with 3D printers at home and companies engaged in additive manufacturing are being requested to contribute by making simple yet crucial pieces of equipment like protective masks and face shields, which can be used by the hospital staff.

Inspired by the N95 mask that is equipped with a filter that can successfully filter out the small airborne particles carrying the virus, 3D printing material company, Copper 3D, also developed numerous masks called “NanoHack” to help the masses, which uses their innovative nanocomposite material, PLACTIVE™.

In Liverpool, New Yorkmore than 300 face shields were produced by Isaac Budmen and Stephanie Keefe for the numerous workers employed at a Coronavirus test site in Syracuse.

Protolabs, a 3D manufacturing company which has been engaged in medical additive manufacturing, has also invested its time and efforts in creating a COVID-19 test kit, the first of which was shipped on March 24th.

SmileDirect Club, a dental aligner company has uses also uses 3D printing technologies,has dedicated its services towards the production of the related types of equipment required to fight the Novel Coronavirus.

iFixit, a company famous for its Apple device repair guides, is even thinking of providing designs that will allow people to 3Dprint key components for ventilators, such as the venturi valves,if there is a demand for them from U.S. hospitals. This can help to increase production to a great deal, thus helping to meet the surging requirements.

Whether it is in partnership with universities, leveraging their in-house technologies, or exercising their partner networks. Large 3D printing companieswithin the Untied States – such as Carbon 3D, 3D Systems, Stratasys, and EOS – are all stepping up and making their resources available to address the needs being .

The number of patients and victims of Novel Coronavirus is increasing by the minute on a global level. In almost every 5 minutes, a person is dying. The whole population must stand together to help medical professionals and technicians at work. To get the situation under control and save numerous lives, global healthcare systems must be equipped with ample resources, types of equipment, and devices. 3D printers can help the healthcare systems by manufacturing various devices like face shields, masks, door handles, valves, etc., and lend a supporting hand.

So, if you are a part of additive manufacturing company or are an individual dealer with 3D printers and have the resources and the machinery suitable to create and build such equipment, get to work now, lend a hand and save lives!