Where To Offer 3D Printing Help During The COVID-19 Crisis

By on March 17th, 2020 in community

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Project Open Air hopes to provide critical medical equipment designs [Source: Project Open Air]

Project Open Air hopes to provide critical medical equipment designs [Source: Project Open Air]

As the pandemic crisis escalates, community organizations are stepping up everywhere to try to help. 

There are several initiatives appearing that offer assistance to those working in the medical field during the COVID-19 crisis. The crux of the problem is that many afflicted end up with pneumonia, so severe they require hospitalization and intubation for a ventilator. This is the standard approach for such cases, and it usually helps immensely.

But here’s the problem, and it’s a big one: the expected number of cases will exceed, and in some regions vastly exceed, the number of ventilators available in medical facilities. Thus there will be patients arriving at the hospital who have no hope of proper treatment. 

Solving The Capacity Problem

There are only two ways to address this issue. One is to slow the rate of infection so that the number of patients arriving at the hospitals remains within capacity. The other option is to increase the capacity of the hospitals. 

In China, two new 1,000-bed hospitals were literally built in a week. That’s unlikely to happen in the West, but there are several initiatives attempting to make more ventilators and other critical equipment available. In the UK, the government has sent designs for ventilators to major manufacturers to try to fill the gap. That country appears to have only about 30% of the required number of ventilators, according to estimates.

This problem is expected to be particularly severe in the United States, where I’ve seen estimates that only 10% of the required ventilators are currently available.

But that’s an official response. There are a number of unofficial initiatives underway. These hope to locally produce functional — but unapproved and uncertified — equipment that may be considered for use if conditions become severe. Many of these designs could be at least partially made with 3D printed parts, and that’s where you come in.

Oxygen Concentrator

[Image: RepRap]

[Image: RepRap]

RepRap Ltd published a post describing the design of an oxygen concentrator. They explain: 

“With the World’s current problems caused by covid-19, it seemes to us that an open-source oxygen concentrator would be a useful thing to have.  These are fairly simple devices that work by pressure swing adsorbtion.  The block diagram for what we propose is shown above.”

They’ve opened a GitHub repository for the design of this device. 

Open Source COVID-19 Library

A site made by engineers is the Open Source COVID-19 Library, which hopes to hold designs for ventilators, air filters, pressure valves, and other relevant equipment.

Currently, there’s not much there, but I imagine contributors will build it out over coming days. 

Project Open Air

Ventilator made by  Marco Mascorro

Ventilator made by Marco Mascorro

Another initiative is Project Open Air (#projectopenair), which hopes to focus makers and experts worldwide on designs and making of such devices. 

Their website currently doesn’t have very much, but the initiative does have a rather busy Slack channel. If you’re interested in helping I encourage you to join their channel where you can be connected with others who offer a variety of expertise and capabilities. 

This is not just a program for hackers and hobbyists; I have seen representatives from Formlabs, Beamler and other reputable major 3D printing companies offer services and assistance to the project.

And it’s not just techies required on this project: they are in desperate need of admins and moderators for their Slack environment, and many people have the skills to help out there. 

The project hopes to focus on a small number of designs that can be improved and passed on to others to produce locally. 

If successful, this project could save many lives. 

Maybe you could help them make that happen. Join now.

Via Project Open Air

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!