The unlikely hero – 3D Printing

As COVID-19 turned our lives upside down, depleting various supplies (from N95 masks to toilet paper), an unlikely hero emerged from this confusion … 3D Printing. Across the globe, 3D printers, from hobbyists to large organizations, answered the call to quickly replenish supplies and find creative ways to step up and help fight COVID-19 … And we’re sharing their stories.

Why would we, a 3D printing company, highlight the work of other 3D printers? Because we’re proud of our community’s commitment to the public good. We’re pleased that when everyone needed an answer to an unprecedented question, 3D printers said, “We can answer that.” And we’re proud to shine a light on what felt like a very dark time. So, let’s dive into the fantastic stories about the unlikely heroes in 3D Printing!

EOS Gathers the 3D Printing Community

EOS, a global provider of essential elements for industrial 3D Printing, leveraged its global network of 3D printers to offer relevant data, impactful initiatives, and downloadable files in one place! EOS included every platform, from webinars to an active LinkedIn group, FREE files for printing medical supplies and preventive products, scientific research, and more. The EOS team has taken the time to collect and validate all these resources and put them in one place for everyone to access!

PPE Shortage? 3D Printers to The Rescue!

Face masks and face shields, we saw the 3D Printing community step up to help make them all! With various free designs for face masks, face shield components, and emergency masks for hospital ventilators, 3D printers – hobbyists and pros – worked hard at rapidly filling supply chain gaps. That’s the 3D printing secret weapon – speed! Unlike many traditional manufacturing techniques, 3D Printing can rapidly make identical copies of a single design with a small team

NW Rapid Mfg. prints PPE masks for COVID

If you’re a home 3D printer who wants to help or are in the medical field searching for PPE, MakerNexus gathered an at-home community of volunteers. Similarly, Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM) created a Maker Army. They encouraged 3D printing enthusiasts to help create and deliver a variety of products that help in the fight against COVID-19 and other world challenges. Several large organizations, such as Mercedes Benz or 3D printer makers like Carbon, Prusa Research, and Formlabs 3D Systems, fulfilled sizeable orders. We wouldn’t be surprised if a 3D printer near you also prints PPE, so we highly recommend looking close to home first (get your PPE and support local jobs for a real win-win). As a small example, our team created a mask design, completed 250 face shields, and donated them to local healthcare workers! Looking locally may work out better than you even expect.

There is one small caution we must include (though we hate to distract from all the good news): While all these 3D printers were trying to fill a gap in a supply chain, there wasn’t a lot of information out there about how effective, comfortable, or cost-effective these printed products are. So, when hunting for PPE, look for and ask about that information to ensure you’re making the right choice for your team!

Designing New Solutions

While a portion of the 3D printing community focused on printing large quantities of face shields and face masks, another part of our community focused on designing and printing new solutions (we are engineers, after all). A few innovations that have caught our eye:

  • Materialise converted standard hospital equipment into a non-invasive PEEP mask that can be connected to an oxygen supply. The article states, “Using standard medical equipment, including a non-invasive ventilation (NIV) mask, filter, and PEEP valve, the solution is simple to use and familiar to medical professionals.” Materialise also created some free designs for hands-free door openers for anyone to print to help fight the spread! 3D printers like us offered to print these door openers at a minimal cost.

Photo and Design Property of Materialise
  • Prakash Lab and Stanford University created Pneumask, a reusable full-face snorkel mask PPE project. Using an off-the-shelf snorkeling mask, a custom (3D-printed) adapter, and a filter/filter cartridge, Pneumask provides a full-face shield while allowing for controlled intake and exhaust flows through the mask.
  • In March 2020, 3D-printed valves for reanimation devices saved lives in an Italian hospital. Several designers and engineers stepped up to work on creating 3D printable models for these venturi valves in ventilators for hospitals. GrabCAD user Filip Kober even created a model and has made it available for free on the Open 3D Model network!

We hope to have touched upon enough great stories to help you see that even in dark times, we can find light; that even when a fight seems too big, we can come together, innovate, and win; and that a crisis, big or small, can reveal the unlikeliest of heroes (from grocery store employees to nursing staff to truck drivers to your local 3D printer).

Have a 3D printing story worth sharing? Please share it with our team!



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