Engineers and manufacturers from all around the world are looking to help meet the needs for hospitals treating Coronavirus patients. One way of doing this is through Open Source, which allows engineers, designers, and medical practitioners to collaborate online through publicly-available code. That allows manufacturing companies who would not normally have the know-how to produce needed items, to do so – items such as face masks, face shields, ventilators and more.

One group of engineers are using Open Source to create a working ventilator using PLA plastic, a 3D printer and some off-the-shelf components. Another company helped a hospital in Italy that lacked an essential ventilator valve. This 3D printing company stepped in and was able to produce the life-saving valve.

3D-PRINTING AND PLA PLASTICS ARE BEING USED BY MANUFACTURERS TO STEP UP PRODUCTION

Governments all over the world have asked companies to shift from what they normally make to produce medical devices. For example, one line at a Volkswagen plant is no longer making cars; instead, automated ventilators are being produced. Volkswagen has gone from producing cars to ventilators in record time.

In the United States, a company called Stratasys has made available on their website files that can be downloaded to produce face shields. The mask includes a 3D-printed frame and a clear plastic shield that covers the entire face.

Protolabs, a prototype and low-volume production parts company, is manufacturing ventilator components, face shields, personal protection equipment and lab testing equipment. They turned around 1,000 components for COVID-19 test kits in 24 hours according to a post on their Twitter account.

The most commonly used material for 3D printing is Poly Lactic Acid (PLA) Plastic. It is easy to print and biodegradable, and is derived from renewable sources including corn starch, sugarcane, and other biomaterials.

Contact the Polymers Technology Center to learn more about polymers processing for prototypes and small run production needs.