Share this post

It is certain that the COVID-19 pandemic is having, and will continue having a marked effect on day to day life. We are investigating some COVID-19 prints which could be done to help fight the spread of the disease and also make life inside a bit more bearable. Please note that this article does not aim to offer medical advice, this is our own opinion on how to best fight the epidemic.

Why you should 3D print with caution

Voids in 3D printed FDM objects, source: tetonism.com

3D printed plastic especially the FDM type is made using layers upon layers of plastic. This creates a number of vacancies on the surface and inside the part which can harbor microbes. In fact the Corona virus and other micro organisms for that matter, can live on plastic parts for a number of days. This means that most parts will only be single use since most FDM printed plastics are not easily sterilized. Thus, before printing any parts for yourself, but especially for other people, make sure you understand the limitations of 3D printed parts and that you are working in a clean and sterile environment. As Shakespeare once wrote  “And you all know, security / Is mortals’ chiefest enemy.”

Face shields

This is probably one of the more useful and recommended prints for helping with limiting the spread of corona virus. Several 3D printable models of face shields have popped in the past days for protection against COVID-19. These include the face mask by Josef Prusa. This face shield has a very simple design, can be printed quickly and using little materials. While these masks are already being employed and used by various personnel interacting with people such as shopkeepers, cashiers etc. designs for medical use still need to be validated. Furthermore the face shield requires a sheet of PET film to be attached in order to cover the face.

Covid-19 prints - PPE
Protective face shield by Prusa, source: Prusaprinters.com

Pros:

  • Easy to print
  • Uses little filament
  • Effective especially when used in combination with a face mask
  • Easy to mass produce
  • Parts required are easy to source

Cons:

  • Needs material and assembly
  • Still not 100% effective

The simplicity and effectiveness of this mask has triggered a large maker movement to start providing these masks to healthcare, retail and other sectors where human contact is unavoidable.

Face masks

A number of 3D printable masks have also surfaced in the recent days. Before delving into more details about these masks. It is important to note that medical masks need to be certified by the medical community. A very informative blog post on the short comings of 3D printed face masks can be found on this blog post by Prusa Research. With that being said, some face masks might be validated for 3D printing when using the right materials, these can be used to offer some protection against the spread of the virus. Nonetheless face masks 3D printed or not do not offer full protection against the transmission of the virus since the virus can enter from the eyes. Furthermore for the most part such designs only limit limit the spread of droplets and help to reduce spread.

3D printed face mask by Wasp, source: 3D printing media network

Pros

  • Can offer partial protection if the mask is validated for medical use
  • Can be used as a last resort for personal protection

Cons

  • Masks do not offer full protection
  • Some designs are not easy to print
  • 3D printed parts are porous and can actually harbor infections

Hands free door openers

A number of prints such as this one by materialise can be used to provide hands free usage of door handles and other places which are typically in contact with hands. The main drawback here still is the porosity of 3D printed objects which can harbor infections. Solid materials such as metals tend to be self sterilizing however, corona virus can live for up to 3 days on metal surfaces, which means that objects such as door handles which are used frequently can still be a potential source of infection. Using these additions can help fight the spread but one has to ensure that they are used appropriately and not touched by bare hands.

3D printed door handle opener for hands free operation, source: materialise.com

On that note it is probably not the best idea to print a personal jig to open doors, or press buttons. As stated previously these can harbor microbes and can possibly do more harm than good. It is better to wash your hands frequently, use hand sanitiser when you can’t, and always avoid touching your face or eyes. You can always open doors with your elbow instead!

Medical Valves

A story about how 3D printing was used to supply medical vales to hospitals in Italy from a few days ago went viral. In short, a hospital in Brescia, Italy, a heavily infected region urgently needed medical valves for respirators used to treat COVID-19 patients. The valves could not be provided by the supplier in time, and after several phone calls to 3D printing companies in Brescia and Milan, @isinnova.srl brought a 3D printer directly to hospital and printed the replacement parts in a matter of hours.

FDM printed valve next to the actual valve used in ventilators

There is however a large controversy surrounding the 3D printing of these parts including copyright issues but also issues with medical validation of these components.

Prints to keep you busy

During these times it is easy to get lost in the headlines and panic and try to help as much as you can. However it is best to listen from the healthcare professionals and offer help when needed. At the moment the best decision is to stay inside to protect yourself and those around you by stopping the spread of the virus

In the meantime, you can also work on that diy project you have been putting off for a while. If you have a spare printer you can also 3D print these Corona virus themed models:

Bigfoot

This print speaks for itself, via cults3d.

Hand gel dispenser

This is a good idea to remind everyone to wash their hands well, although we’d recommend washing you hands according to the guidelines by WHO! via cults3d

Other COVID-19 resources:

That’s it for this blog, remember to stay inside and stay safe, to help against the spread of COVID-19!

Share this post
26th June 2020
3D Printing with Nylon - Why & How?
20th June 2020
3D Printing Polypropylene - Why and how?
15th June 2020
3D Printing Polycarbonate - Why and how?
8th June 2020
Unlocking more 3D printing applications with advanced engineering FDM materials