3D Printing Against Coronavirus: Who And How To Help

By on March 18th, 2020 in Usage

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3D printing is here to help [Image: BCN3D]

3D printing is here to help [Image: BCN3D]

The 3D printing community continues to unite in efforts to help in the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Just yesterday we shared a look at some tangible ways to help in efforts, but already there are loads more sources emerging.

This brings to mind a favorite quote from all-around-good-guy Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers), who reminds us to ‘look for the helpers’:

[Source:  Huffington Post ]

[Source: Huffington Post]

We’re gathering more resources that are popping up from the global 3D printing community: how can you help? Who needs help? What organizations are doing what?

Resources At A Glance

A few major resources are emerging to collate responses.

This Google Doc allows for people with 3D printers to offer up their help; you can submit your information for inclusion in this public Google Sheet (note that all information is public, so mind your contact details). Those needing help via 3D printing can turn to the Google Sheet to find local individuals with 3D printers and the appropriate design experience to help with their needed projects.

Women in 3D Printing has been gathering direct links to initiatives emerging around the world. Various projects are linked, including designs, community-based projects, ongoing conversation forums, challenges, and more. These initiatives will continue to be updated as more are submitted; keep an eye here.

Dr. Joshua Pearce of Michigan Tech has shared a call for papers in a Special Issue on Open-Source COVID19 Medical Hardware. Understanding the need for medical hardware, the call targets digital manufacturing technologies that can meet those needs with open source designs that can be made anywhere — with a keen eye to safety:

“Large groups of makers, engineers, and medical professionals are already collaborating on the web to make open source medical devices, such as ventilators, to have a fast and easy solution that can be reproduced and assembled locally worldwide. However, there is a concern in the medical community about using these devices without some assurance that these devices will operate as intended and not do harm. This special issue is dedicated to vetting the technical specifications and reproducibility of open medical hardware that can help during this global pandemic. Due to the urgency all articles will be rapidly peer-reviewed, published open access upon acceptance, and all article processing charges will be waived.

We are specifically looking for hardware that: 1) can be digitally manufactured using accessible low-cost fabrication tools like 3-D printers and 2) those that can be readily constructed from widely accessible materials and simple tools (e.g. DIY hardware store sourced).

Examples include: Ventilator Machines, Negative Pressure Rooms (Airborne Infection Isolation Rooms – AIIR), Oxygen Concentrators, Pulse Oximeters, Flow-Splitter for Oxygen Supplies, Flowmeters, Nasal Prongs / Nasal Cannulae, Flexible Nasal Catheters, Oxygen Masks, Non-Contact Thermometers, N95 Respirators, and Powered Air Purifying Respirators.”

Designs And Personal Protective Equipment

Designs for 3D printable goods are abounding; the most famous so far is the example of 3D printed valves a FabLab made to help an Italian hospital.

Also popping up are various designs for personal protective equipment. In addition to face shields emerging from Hong Kong’s PolyU, new designs for face masks are emerging.

One is this free design from 3Dline in Italy. A word of caution comes with such designs, though. As 3Dline notes with their design (translated from Italian):

“This type of face mask / protection is not designed to stop viruses or filter pathogens but only to limit droplets!

The precautions for droplets are designed to reduce the risk of transmission of infectious agents by droplets. 

Obviously this mask cannot be certified and must not replace certified commercial protection masks but must be used only in extreme cases where it is not possible to find other more reliable protection systems!”

Face shields are, on the whole, more likely to be effective for 3D printers to create (using often laser-cut plastic for the shield itself) than are face masks.

A design competition has come up today as well, as the teams at ParaMatters and Nexa3D are appealing to designers’ competitive spirit to help in the current crisis. Basic accounts for ParaMatters’ powerful CogniCAD software are available to the first 500 registrants, including 50 complimentary tokens, and the top three designs will be 3D printed by Nexa3D.

Companies’ Initiatives

[Image: Business Wire]

[Image: Business Wire]

3D printer manufacturers and other participants in the industry are putting their resources to work as well. Among such initiatives are:

BCN3D is offering its 3D printer farm of 63 machines “to be used for those projects that can contribute the most to the public benefit in these hard times.” 

An anonymous “safeguard instrument manufacturing enterprise in China” put its own 200-strong print farm of 200 Flashforge Guider2 systems to use in 3D printing safety goggles. The team is upping its output, from 600 to 2,000 units, to “[alleviate] the shortage of some medical supplies.” The goggles, designed and produced in-house, are lightweight and sealed from fogging up; more than 5,000 pairs of goggles have already been donated to hospitals. They plan to expand production going forward, up to 10,000 pairs made on a daily basis.

The head of the company said, “3D printed safety glasses have a shorter design cycle, and volume of production of 3D printing technology is more scalable than traditional ways.”

Idaho-based Slant3D is getting in on the action with its 3D printers as well. Following news of Materialise’s free design for a 3D printed door opener, Slant3D says on LinkedIn:

“We are reserving a large portion of our capacity to the production of these types of aide. We will be producing parts like these for under $10 to ensure that they are immediately scalable and accessible to the general public. Reach out if you need these types of parts.”

Slant3D has also begun to compile a list of links to 3D printable designs that could come in handy during the pandemic, including more face masks, the Materialise design, and another hook-like device to limit personal contact with door handles and other must-touch fixtures (think elevator buttons).

A Word Of Caution

3D printing for medical assistance is wonderful — but requires great caution.

Please note that simply 3D printing a face mask will not protect you from contracting or transmitting coronavirus or any other infection. Such designs may limit the spread of droplets and help to reduce spread, but these are not medical-grade devices. What you make at home is not going to be equivalent to what a certified medical company produces.

Be smart. Be reasonable in your expectations. Take heed of designers’ intentions and do not expect more than such a design might reasonably offer. There simply is no magical solution to stopping the spread of coronavirus; if there was, we would not be in this WHO-proclaimed pandemic situation right now.

On top of reasonable expectations of efficacy, please also be aware of legal concerns.

IP theft is still a concern related to reverse engineering and reproducing protected designs. While extenuating circumstances in an emergency often lead to concern for human life being more important than copyright — and frankly it is only right to prioritize the literal saving of life over profit — that does not mean there will not be repercussions.

There’s word that the designers of those heralded ventilator valves in Italy may be sued by the original medical device manufacturer.

Now more than ever it is important, if not critical, to use best judgement.

Be smart. Stay healthy. Flatten the curve. Be good to each other.

By Sarah Goehrke

Sarah Goehrke is a Special Correspondent for Fabbaloo, via a partnership with Additive Integrity LLC. Focused on the 3D printing industry since 2014, she strives to bring grounded and on-the-ground insights to the 3D printing industry. Sarah served as Fabbaloo's Managing Editor from 2018-2021 and remains active in the industry through Women in 3D Printing and other work.


  1. As hospitals and other medical facilities all over the world are experiencing a shortage of masks, shields, and other equipment in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak – the 3D printing community, from makers and hobbyists to major companies, are answering the call. Zeal 3D Printing is also producing 3d printed masks, face shields to protect people from coronavirus. We would also like to contribute from our side, you can contact us at [email protected]

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