Going Hands-On With 3D Printing To Go Hands-Off During Pandemic

By on March 16th, 2020 in Design

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The hands-free design allows for a door to be opened with the forearm [Image: Materialise]

The hands-free design allows for a door to be opened with the forearm [Image: Materialise]

3D printing has long come into play for creating assistive devices — now some of these designs may be useful for avoiding virus transmission.

It’s a new world, really, during a pandemic viral outbreak. The novel coronavirus currently spreading its resulting COVID-19 illness around the globe has halted or slowed travel, work, and general activity as normal. Some of those normal activities, though, still need to go on. Like opening doors.

Materialise is joining those companies making public its efforts to help in keeping safe with a new free design: a hands-free door opener.

“Experts believe that COVID-19 can survive on surfaces for an extended time, and door handles represent a high risk of contamination,” the Materialise team explains.

They continue: “The idea for the 3D printed door handle originated at an internal meeting to define measures to protect Materialise employees and visitors. It soon became clear that more people could benefit from this design and the company decided to make it available for free. Anyone with access to a 3D printer can download the design and 3D print it locally in a matter of hours.”

The beauty of the design is in its simplicity: it attaches easily to a lever-style cylindrical door handle, with the two 3D printed pieces simply screwing to each other. No change is made to the door itself, and the opener can easily be removed later on.

[Image: Materialise]

[Image: Materialise]

The team tells us that more designs suited for different door opening styles will be released soon — as early as today. The initial design was developed within 24 hours, as 3D design and dissemination allows for truly fast-acting solution creation.

Doors equipped with the new apparatus can be opened, not with hands, but with the forearm. Doorknobs and other frequently-touched public objects offer especially high risk of transmitting the virus, and keeping hands off of them adds a layer of protection. (The team notes as well that regular surface disinfection remains a good idea.)

“Door handles are said to be among the most contagious places in a building,” says Materialise CEO Fried Vancraen. “…We call upon everyone who has access to a 3D printer to 3D print this part and to make this part available to his local community in order to make the door handles safer.”

Those without their own 3D printer access can purchase the designs from i.materialise as a high-priority order; a set of two MJF- or SLS-printed openers costs €40 (~US$44) and will go out for shipment within three business days.

3D Printing Against Coronavirus

The adaptability of 3D printing is well suited for helping in efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus, as the community increases efforts around the world.

In keeping with the spirit of 3D printing, many of the designs and efforts emerging now are aimed at availability where they’re needed, not at increasing profit.

The Materialise door opener design files are available free of charge, as the Belgium-made design can help those around the world.

They are also encouraging community additions to the design:

“If you know how to design for 3D printing and would like to adapt our file to fit over other door handle types, we encourage you to create your own and share with the world.”

[Image: Materialise]

[Image: Materialise]

These types of community-driven efforts are on the rise, perhaps starting to spread faster than infection itself. (Well, we can hope, anyway.)

Among other efforts we have seen recently have been FabLab-created ventilator parts for hospitals in Italy, 3D printed face and eye shields for medical personnel in Hong Kong, and a Czech team of polymer scientists using their facility to make 1,000 liters of hand sanitizer in-house.

In a time of fear and uncertainty, these efforts are offering both help and hope.

3D printing can bring manufacturing on-site and on-demand — and with demand high in the face of infection, and sites around the world, the technology is certainly uniquely suited to make an impact to some of the physical needs of antiviral efforts.

3D printing companies should continue to lead by example. Preventive and treatment focused designs and solutions are in great demand.

Consider this a call to action: use technology for good.

Via Materialise

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.