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Let's do our part against COVID-19. Update 1.


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Posted · Let's do our part against COVID-19. Update 1.

The COVID-19 virus has a firm grip on our world, and its effects are undeniably impactful. 
Significant pain points are starting to surface in the medical world, where the amount of people who need help increases, but the supply and distribution of tools and equipment has a hard time keeping up. At Ultimaker we recognised this as an opportunity to help, activate our network and utilise the disrupting power that local manufacturing can have.

Through this post we would like to share some of the things we have already done so far and some tips that might help you to help others. 


What have we done so far
From our experience up until this point it seems there is a high demand and a lot of good intentions, but in between these two forces we still need to identify how 3D printing can be put to best use. Unfortunately, not everything that hospitals need can be equally easily 3D printed. Luckily, sometimes even an easier solution is just around the corner. The experts on team Ultimaker together with medical professionals are helping to identify where 3D printing can help, or what accessible alternatives are available from a vibrant network of (professional) makers.

Here are some examples we’ve come across so far:


  • Face shields. (Single use, very large quantities) The city of New York was tasking the industry to first deliver more face shields for intake and test staff at hospitals — in the thousands. We helped them by printing a face plate in the New Lab 3D Print Lab, while also being supportive of the team cutting the face plates with cnc routers. With Bednark, the company with the many routers and faceplate material, we all identified a reasonable and viable route just using foam and faceplate material — a route that would reach the 10k desired pieces by the end if the week. Additive manufacturing was validated as a secondary option but considered not fast enough for such a large batch and not as comfortable to the face as a foam strip. Additive manufacturing solutions are considered for other projects.
  • Protective masks (reuse required, medium quantities) The priority for hospitals is protective masks for closer physical proximity to COVID-19 patients. There are a lot of designs but no unanimous agreement. A large group of industrial designers are using 3D printing trying to get closer to a conclusion in discussion with many hospital staff members. This is a candidate of additive manufacturing, but the exact solutions we’re still working towards. 
    Right now none of the existing designs have been deemed safe enough, a good enough fit, nor nimble enough for what doctors need moving fast. It’s a work in progress for which we are committed to reach a conclusion. The New Lab 3D Print Lab is ready to run validation prints and quantities in hundreds this week when a good design is found and validated by NYC hospitals. And when we reach that benchmark, other local hubs and localized manufactures (like Voodoo manufacturing) could makes thousands as a stop gap until other processes deliver. 
  • Ventilators (reuse required, mechanical solution, lower quantities acceptable). The main project right now seems to be the MIT project. Most of the medical contact parts are being water-jetted and CNC’d from medical grade plastics. The 3D Print lab stands ready and available for all prototyping, but the key issue to solve are electronics quantity and firmware and some sewn parts.
  • Other medical parts for hospitals: (emergency parts with size/fit interface requirements but low sterilization or quantity requirements possible) As functioning mask files are not confirmed yet, the New Lab 3D Print Lab has reverted to close to original aim for initiative: as a read printing hub for hospital emergency parts directly instead of supporting government of city of New York. These are all AM opportunities.
  • We’ve also been in touch with numerous medical professionals and institutions, testing and validating various designs in different applications. This will be an ongoing work in progress with new designs entering the field. Due to risks and liabilities we can’t share these results yet, but we hope to share them at a later stage. Including a list of materials which are best suited for certain applications and the specific requirements they might have. 


How to help others
If you are on our map of available 3D printing hubs (if you’re not yet, you can by filling out this form), it is possible a hospital or other medical facility can reach out to you asking support in either designing or printing a certain tool or application. The following questions or considerations can help you zoom in where additive manufacturing can really help and where, truth be told, we probably shouldn’t. 


Despite the urgent need and enthusiasm to help; not every request is equally suitable or 3D printing. If you receive a request, ask yourself at least these things: 

  1. Is the request approved by, or did it come from a medical professional? Our willingness to help could overshadow potential health-risks we ‘common folks’ are not aware of and we should be sure that any help we provide is actually helpful. When in doubt, feel free to reach out to us and experts in our network can advise. 
  2. Is 3D printing the best manufacturing method for this application? This may often be the case, but not always. In our attempt to help we must find the balance between what production method is best suited, and what capacity is available on short term. 
  3. Does the application require specific material properties? Make sure to validate with the medical professional who requests your help which material you should use, or which properties it must have before you start 3D printing. If you attempt to print with materials that are new to you, familiarize yourself with potential emissions and adhesives before you start, and take the necessary precautions.  
  4. Can you print under sufficiently sanitary conditions? Think of allergens that may spread from pets when printing from home, and think of your own health. If you are feeling ill, stay isolated and get well first. 
  5. When all the above checks out; do you have sufficient 3D print capacity? Feel free to involve other hubs in your local area to assist. 

Depending on which surfaces or fluids a 3D print is in contact with, it may not be useful for repetition or longer periods of time due to the coarse surface of an FDM print. Keep this in mind when you discuss certain applications or your choice of materials. Our experts, together with medical experts and institutions are working on making a list of materials and instructions which can be sterilized, and which can be used at certain grades of medical appliances. We will share this as soon as it is validated and complete. 


If you have any questions, feel free to write them below or reach out to us directly. Thank you for your time and stepping up to help others in this time of need. Together we can make a difference. And stay safe! 

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