As the COVID-19 pandemic strains the global supply for essential medical products, digital manufacturers have stepped in as a reliable source of stopgap solutions. Innovation, collaboration, and selflessness have reached a notch higher, and are still rising during this time.
The crisis has made the stakeholders in the AM industry to rise to levels of strength and resolve that they could not have attained in any other way. Here is a glimpse of some of the achievements of the manufacturing community:
The level of collaboration in the industry has increased to unprecedented levels, with the line of competition almost becoming blurry. Some of the collaborative efforts are:
Joint research: Researchers from Harvard, Stanford, University of South Florida, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre are openly collaborating on GitHub to come up with guidelines for rapid CNC prototyping of test swabs in line with FDA requirements. Several 3D-printing companies have agreed to work together to manufacture about four million swabs a week.
Information dissemination: Thousands of small-scale 3D printers have turned a single Facebook group into a center for information dissemination. This information is vital for those who need to make medical equipment such as ventilators and face shields.
Financial support: Some digital manufacturers have created funds to help engineers and tech firms that lack resources. 3D Hubs, for example, has a COVID-19 manufacturing fund. It aims at supporting those who design parts for equipment related to the pandemic but do not have funds or facilities. The accepted projects also receive access to the firm’s manufacturing network and expert DFM feedback on the designs.
Open-source designs: Another collaborative effort is the free sharing of designs for critical personal protective equipment among digital manufacturers. It comes after several stakeholders, including the European Association for Additive
Manufacturing, CECIMO, requested additive manufacturers to join hands in helping hospitals and health centers with essential medical equipment.
Innovation has also climaxed in the industry, especially in consideration of the need for social distancing and contactless interaction. One of the innovative products is the 3D-printed hands-free door handle attachment. The add-on allows people to open doors using their elbows, eliminating the possibility of coming into contact with microbes. The file for the design of the handle is available for free for rapid prototyping.
A group of San Antonio anesthesiologists also released an open-source design of ventilator splitters and flow limiters that allow for the sharing of ventilators. They are meant to be a last resort for hospitals that run out of T-tubes.