3D printing specialist Stratasys is aiming to produce 5,000 disposable face shields in the US alone by the end of this week (March 27) in the fight against the Covid-19 coronavirus.
The PPE equipment for medical personnel consists of a 3D printed plastic frame and a clear plastic shield that guards the entire face of the wearer, under which particulate face masks are usually worn for additional protection. One leading hospital informed Stratasys that it uses more than 1,500 of the face shields over the course of a regular week. The Covid-19 outbreak had reduced the hospital to just six days’ inventory of the equipment.
The company will use its Stratasys Direct Manufacturing facilities in Minnesota, Texas and California to ramp up the face shield production, as well as 3D printing facilities at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, Queensborough Community College in New York City, and the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia.
Full production and assembly instructions for the face shield will also be posted on Stratasys’ Covid-19 response page. Any 3D printing facility in the US that wishes to help print the plastic frames can fill out an online form to be invited to join the effort, and Stratasys expects it will be able to continue to increase the overall scale of production.
“We see additive manufacturing as an essential part of the response to the Covid-19 global epidemic,” said Stratasys CEO Yoav Zeif.
“The strengths of 3D printing – be anywhere, print virtually anything, adapt on the fly – make it a capability for helping address shortages of parts related to shields, masks, and ventilators, among other things. Our workforce and partners are prepared to work around the clock to meet the need for 3D printers, materials, including biocompatible materials, and 3D-printed parts.”
The company is also involved in the US effort to dramatically ramp up production of ventilators, in much the same way as UK industry is seeking to address the shortage. An initiative led by anaesthesiology residents of Massachusetts General Hospital called the CoVent-19 Challenge is planning to ask engineers and designers to help develop a new rapidly deployable ventilator. According to Stratasys, it will support the challenge via its seven million-strong GrabCAD community of professional designers, engineers, manufacturers and students.
In Italy, manufacturer CRP Technology has rapidly prototyped emergency valves for ventilators and face masks. The intensity of the coronavirus crisis across the country has placed the Italian healthcare system under immense pressure, with shortages of critical care equipment reported to be widespread.
“Following the intensification of the emergency due to the lack of fundamental devices for the care of patients affected by Covid-19, we want to give a concrete sign of our support: we 3D printed emergency valves for ventilations and several Charlotte valves,” said engineer Franco Cevolini, vice president and technical director of CRP Technology.
“Charlotte valves are link-components for emergency ventilator masks, realised by Isinnova on Dr Renato Favero’s idea and project, adjusting a snorkelling mask already available on the market [Easybreath mask by Decathlon].”
According to Cevolini, the valves are uncertified and should only be used in emergency circumstances with the signed approval of the patient. A patent for the Charlotte valve is being sought to prevent any price speculation and to keep its use free of charge for hospitals.