If a patient is challenged in breathing on his own, medical professionals attending to his aid would resort to the use of a mechanical ventilator. Ventilators are pieces of equipment that will help ease up their respiration since they are specifically designed to help someone breathe on their own.
Modern design of ventilators usually come with a tube and pump machine. Healthcare professionals will be sliding this tube into the windpipe of the patient to help in controlling and regulating airflow to his lungs. COVID-19 patients who are critically ill due to the coronavirus will be in dire need of such devices, respirators, to help them keep on breathing.
Situations described above are putting a great amount of pressure on hospitals and healthcare institutions where the vast majority of which are currently brimming with disproportionate numbers of patients. Most of the time these hospitals are handling a huge number of patients, far greater than what they can actually accommodate.
As of this writing, the US reportedly has at least 170,000 ventilators available. Despite that, the American Hospital Association is anticipating that the COVID-19 patients who are going to require intensive medical attention and treatment will be escalating to a minimum of 960,000.
With this in mind, we understand the crucial need to slow down the virus and its spread so as to ensure that not every single patient will be in desperate need of medical attention at the same time.
Nevertheless, we need to double time on our production efforts for ventilators considering the fact that containing the coronavirus is proving to be much harder than earlier anticipated. This is vouched for by recent events.
With this scenario in mind, can we take advantage of 3D printing machines to scale up our production for this type of medical equipment?
3D Printing Machines and Scaling Up the Production
Exploiting 3D printing technologies in our global situation now will put us all at a greater advantage. In no time at all, medical equipment manufacturing companies will be empowered and enabled to produce the respirator equipment we have an urgent need for.
But it is much harder when it comes to scaling up its production.
In Italy, like for instance, they began to mobilize a handful of medical equipment companies and charged them with 3D printing a few dozen valves to be used in intensive care respiratory units. The said valves are a primary component that will link the oxygen mask to the ventilators.
The Italian design company that was delegated to create the valves and their digital files, its CEO Cristian Fracassi, explained that they were able to act fast because they utilized 3D printing machines for the project. It actually allowed them to test out a small production first which would be nearly impossible if they will do so on an industrial scale.
In the UK, the manufacturing team behind LCD 3D printers, Photocentric, disclosed that they carried out an overnight test for their 3 large-format machines. It allowed the printing of an estimated 600 valves.
In addition to this, they also divulged that they can turn 40,000 printed valves in just a week’s time — which would mean they will 3D print for 5 straight days, and that is 24 hours a day. With that level of production capability, they’d be able to reach out to local hospitals and similar health care institutions that are in dire shortage of it.
Photocentric further explained that they made use of the open-source valve model that can be found on GrabCAD. Then, with the help of their current SLA machines, they were able to successfully vertically print the valve as tightly as they could on the bed without any need for external support mechanisms.
Naturally, these devices will need to get approved first. But in the days coming, we will witness how these devices will be deployed.