Over recent years we have seen 3D printing becoming more accessible than ever and now this technology which seemed reserved for hi-tech conglomerates and spy movies is proving its worth in the fight against the Coronavirus.
With the COVID-19 outbreak snowballing its way across the globe, medical supplies such as face masks, respirators and ventilators have become scarce and this shortage has prompted action by the 3D printing community and aficionados. From specialised masks to various breathing apparatus, 3D printing is helping people to think ‘out of the box’ and share their designs for free in the hope that it will help lower the infection rate.
Brian Andrew Managing Director for RS Components in Sub Sahara Africa said that there has been a significant increase in interest in 3D printers over recent years. “When commercial 3D printing first made its way on the scene, it was expensive and only a few individuals saw the potential of owning a 3D printer. With advances in the design of these devices, 3D printers have become far more affordable, making this technology highly accessible. The 3D printing phenomena has infiltrated almost every industry, assisting in conceptualising, prototyping as well as small batch production of parts and components,” he said.
He also added that in the medical industry specifically, 3D printing is continuously being used to better the lives of patients as well as revolutionise surgeries for doctors globally. “If we look at the innovation that 3D printing has brought into the medical industry, we just have to look at last year’s pioneering surgical procedure using 3D-printed middle ear bones, developed by Professor Mashudu Tshifularo and his team at the University of Pretoria (UP) in South Africa which made headlines globally. The 3D printing community which is growing has proved that this technology is here to stay and that anyone with an idea can literally see their idea come to life,” he said.
As the Coronavirus outbreak spreads across the globe, we see countries implementing strict travel restrictions, work from home policies and social distancing measures. Even more developed countries are seeing their healthcare systems overloaded and fatigued by COVID-19. In more severe cases, infected patients may require specialist ventilators to take over the role of the lungs. These ventilators are in short supply along with masks and other preventative and safety gear. This shortage of essential equipment has united design engineers and makers in the 3D printing community who have already responded to the global crisis by volunteering their respective skills to ease the pressure on manufacturers, healthcare providers and governments.