Covid-19: Stratasys, Malaysian 3D printers respond to 3D-printed shields for medical sector

Covid-19: Stratasys, Malaysian 3D printers respond to 3D-printed shields for medical sector

US 3D/additive manufacturing firm Stratasys Ltd. says it has mobilised its 3D printing resources and expertise to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, spanning its Stratasys, GrabCAD, Stratasys Direct Manufacturing and partner network with donated printing capacity across all regions. The initial focus is on providing thousands of disposable face shields for use by medical personnel.

In the US, Stratasys has set an initial goal of producing 5,000 face shields by Friday, 27 March, at no cost to the recipients. This includes both a 3D-printed frame and a clear plastic shield that covers the entire face. The company will have the ability to scale to an even faster rate of production.

Any 3D printing shop in the US that wishes to help print plastic frames, can fill out an online form to be invited to join the effort. 

One of the world’s top hospitals has told Stratasys they use 1,530 disposable face shields every week even without the surge created by Covid-19 and is down to six days’ inventory on hand, with the pandemic still building momentum.

Stratasys said medical technology leader Medtronic and Minneapolis-based Dunwoody College of Technology will provide support for the plastic shield material.

Stratasys CEO Yoav Zeif said, “The strengths of 3D printing – be anywhere, print virtually anything, adapt on the fly – make it a capability for helping address shortages of parts related to shields, masks, and ventilators, among other things. Our workforce and partners are prepared to work around the clock to meet the need for 3D printers, materials, including biocompatible materials, and 3D-printed parts.”

Stratasys has also set up a web page where organisations can request 3D printed products to help with the crisis, offer 3D printing capacity, or request 3D printers or material for medical- or safety-related purposes. Visit www.stratasys.com/covid-19.

The company is also planning to respond to the crisis in additional ways. An initiative led by anesthesiology residents of Massachusetts General Hospital called the CoVent-19 Challenge is planning to ask engineers and designers to help develop a new rapidly deployable ventilator and other innovative solutions to the ventilator shortage, and Stratasys plans to support the challenge and promote it via its GrabCAD community of more than 7 million professional designers, engineers, manufacturers and students.

Meanwhile, in Malaysia, 3D printing enthusiasts are producing face shields to aid frontliners in fighting the pandemic. According to a report in a local daily, MinNature Malaysia founder Wan Cheng Huat, who started the Facebook group 3D Printing Malaysia Community for Covid-19, said the self-funded group aims to help frontline staff by creating face shields using 3D printing, laser cutting or DIY builds.

And though the production method, without controlled environment settings, had some limitations including cleanliness during fabrication and sterilisation after, Wan said all visors made would have to be sent to a centralised collection point to be disinfected using ultraviolet (UV) light.

“Hospitals and medical personnel should come up with procedures to only accept items from verified sources that have conducted disinfecting procedures. We do not want to endanger them with unverified, contaminated items,” he said.

The group is in the process of getting feedback from the Malaysian Medical Device Authority and University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) on their production, and which hospital could use the face shields.

3D printing company Pebblereka’s operation director Ahmad Hafez Mohd Shakoff said his company had ten machines to contribute to the group, bringing the group’s collective number of available machines up to approximately 80-plus units.

He said the teams were improvising the design as resources, especially the visor that forms the bulk of the face shield, is limited.

According to local sustainability social enterprise Biji Biji Design Group CEO Rashvin Pal Singh, there is a critical shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), with an estimated 40,000 units of face shields, N95 masks and surgical masks needed by each hospital every month in Malaysia.

Biji-biji Initiative said its education arm Me.reka and partner Taylor’s University are working with the 3D printing community, including 3D Printing Malaysia’s Nurfaiz Foat and Wan, plus Mak Kwan Wuey from Makerzone, to help meet the demand.

The group said it is printing masks based on open-source design files from DIY community Instructables.

To help with production, the group is also seeking assistance from companies with 3D printers, laser cutters or similar equipment, as well as those who can connect them with face shield manufacturers, plastic mould makers, suppliers of 0.2 mm transparent A4 plastic sheets and 4 mm-8 mm acrylic sheets, and frontline organisations in need of face shields.


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