Tackling coronavirus medical supply shortages with 3-D printers

screenshot d printer companies build face shields masks more to fight coronavirus
Credit: Stephen Shankland/CNET

Multinational companies and startups world-wide are reprogramming their cutting-edge 3-D printers to tackle shortages of critical medical equipment caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Many industrial companies are jumping to manufacture medical equipment like ventilators and respirators. With 3-D printers, producers can shift faster, make an array of equipment in one factory and spit out items near where they are needed. The technology, which creates products by building them up in successive layers, can deliver almost any shape from a range of materials. …

HP … is using printer farms in the U.S. and Spain to make hospital equipment such as face-mask adjusters and face shields. … They have been among the first movers because their facilities are already certified by the Food and Drug Administration to make medical-grade equipment.

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For industrial companies unaccustomed to printing medical equipment, certification poses a challenge. The danger gets worse with hobbyist 3-D printers who want to help local hospitals, industry officials say.

“Every garage maker is trying to make their own masks, showing up at hospitals with protective gear that no one’s validated,” said Kit Parker, a Harvard professor and Army Reserve lieutenant colonel. He is working with the chief executive of nearby 3-D-printing startup Desktop Metal to tackle the shortage of nasal swabs.


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