3D printing enables swift response to Covid-19 amid disruptions

The 3D printing technology also served as an alternative and more efficient manufacturing option to keep up with the demand for nasopharyngeal (NP) swabs.

Amid worldwide disruptions in supply chains due to Covid-19 restrictions, the 3D printing technology has enabled on-demand solutions for needs ranging from personal protection equipment to medical devices and isolation wards, say researchers.

The researchers examined how the digital versatility and quick prototyping of 3D printing has enabled the rapid mobilisation of the technology and a swift response to emergencies in a closed loop economy.

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Practices and pitfalls of 3D printing for COVID-19

By now, most of us in the manufacturing world are familiar with the steady stream of news describing organizations, large and small, providing medical equipment using 3D printers. Face masks, face shields, swabs, and parts for ventilators are the most common—and needed—as the frontline medical community struggles to heal patients while protecting themselves. What could be simpler than to create a design, prep the data, ship it to a printer and send the finished part to a happy user or manufacturer?

It is not as simple as it sounds.

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“There are literally hundreds of 3D printing designs to support the current COVID-19 response. Some work, others don’t. Some look great but do not work,” explained Dr. Jenny Chen, M.D., founder and CEO of 3DHEALS, a company focusing on education and industrial research in bioprinting, regenerative medicine, and healthcare applications using 3D printing. She was a moderator for a webinar panel titled “3D Printing Design for COVID-19,” presented April 22.

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Why 3D printing has proven to be the ‘true hero’ during this pandemic

John Dogru, CEO of 3DPrinterOS, spoke to MPN’s editor Laura Hughes about the pivotal role of 3D printing during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Please can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your organisation?

We have developed the world’s first operating system for 3D printing – 3DPrinterOS. Just like Android or Microsoft Dos solved the platform operating systems problems of the early PC and phone days, we have one platform that makes it easy to run, manage, 3D print, and run 3D printing at scale – regardless of who the manufacturer of the 3D printer is.

3D printing has many disparate systems, which we unite under one platform. Each 3D printer usually comes with its own software, and integrating all these brands onto one network is currently a nightmare for customers. This is why we developed an operating system that allows our customers to easily operate all their 3D printers and allows designers to easily print through a web browser. 3DPrinterOS’s customers run some of the largest 3D print farms in the world, allowing them to produce parts at low cost and at scale. We believe we’ve made it so easy, an eight year old could use it.

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How are you helping with the Covid-19 pandemic?

We gave access to our network of over 35,000+ printers, and allowed our customers to share their 3D printers with anyone in the world to produce local face shields and masks needed in hospitals and local communities.

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The pandemic is speeding a shift to 3-D printing

In the span of weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has upended life around the world, and its impact grows more severe with each passing day. The swiftness and pervasiveness of the disruption is unparalleled in modern history, as entire economies grind to a halt in an effort to contain the spread of the virus. Societies have been forced to quickly adapt to the disruption, in many cases turning to technologies that have long been hailed for disruptive potential of their own.

The Pandemic Is Speeding a Shift to 3-D Printing
Source: Bloomberg

In the supply chain, additive manufacturing, also known as 3-D printing, is finally having its moment.

Across industries, supply chains have been hit hard as factories shut down or limit production. However, none has been strained more than the medical supply chain, as demand soars for protective equipment like masks and gloves, as well as for critical life-saving equipment such as ventilators. Hospitals will likely soon be overwhelmed, with capacity and supplies pushed to their limits. In the face of this unprecedented challenge, additive manufacturing has stepped in to fill the gap.

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