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How 3D printers are being utilized to fight the ongoing pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic will change many industries forever and 3D printing will be at the forefront of those changes.

toybox printer 3d printing
Image: Joe Rice-Jones / KnowTechie

The current coronavirus pandemic has changed everything. Items we used to take for granted have suddenly become in-demand and often a matter of life and death. Manufacturers were caught off guard and have been unable to meet the demand, so ordinary people stepped in with a relatively new technology that has exploded in popularity over the last few years: the 3D printer.

Face Shields For Health Care Workers

For health care workers that come in contact with patients possibly infected with the coronavirus, proper personal protective equipment (PPE) has become a necessity. The face shield provides another layer of protection for workers. When used in conjunction with a facemask and goggles, these shields are the frontline barrier that the virus cannot pass through and a reminder for workers not to touch their faces. The only problem was very few manufacturers made face shields

Ordinary people with 3D printers realized they could help. Using open-source design plans, these DIY crafters put their printers to work by pumping out parts for face shields that could be made into the final product. Soon, people were collaborating and moving their 3D printing operations from living rooms to larger industrial spaces where they could ramp up production.

Further, these printers can also make N95 face masks that are the gold standard of PPE because they can filter out 99% of airborne contaminants. 

Face Shields Only The Beginning

3D printers can do a lot more than just print face shield parts. These machines are also pumping out everything from nasal swabs for coronavirus testing to the critical parts needed to make ventilators. For example, in Italy, a country hit particularly hard by the coronavirus, hospitals quickly ran out of respiratory valves that are needed to connect patients to ventilators. An engineering company that uses 3D printing stepped in and quickly came up with a prototype. After testing the valve, the company went into full production mode to help ease the shortage. 

The Military Gets Into The 3D Printing Game

Scientists at the Army Research Laboratory were able to design a low-cost, handheld ventilator that can be used as a stopgap if traditional ventilators became in short supply. The DOD then contracted with 3D printing manufacturers to mass-produce the emergency ventilators to send to areas where they are needed the most.

Advantages Of 3D Printing Over Traditional Manufacturing Methods

3D printers can make a wide variety of products using many types of materials. Further, the designs for 3D printed parts can be shared among individuals and manufacturers alike to step up production to meet demand. The number of 3D printers on the market, both for hobbyists and commercial manufacturers, has greatly increased over the years. These new generation 3D printers are more capable, like the commercial 3D printers from Konica Minolta.

The 3D Printing Revolution Is Here

The coronavirus pandemic will change many industries forever and 3D printing will be at the forefront of those changes. The innovation is driven by critical demand where lives hang in the balance. There’s no doubt that 3D printing will continue to evolve long after the pandemic is over.

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Chris has been blogging since the early days of the internet. He primarily focuses on topics related to tech, business, marketing, and pretty much anything else that revolves around tech. When he's not writing, you can find him noodling around on a guitar or cooking up a mean storm for friends and family.

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