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3D printing offers hope to healthcare workers during COVID-19

During this unprecedented time of the COVID-19 pandemic, various individuals and organisations are displaying human ingenuity in developing innovative technologies to provide to those in need.

Significantly, 3D printing has been utilised by medical institutions and staff on the frontlines to solve immediate challenges around safety as stocks of personal protective equipment (PPE) drop.

According to a statement released by Y Soft, a multinational software and electronic hardware company, 3D printing can offer a relatively quick and affordable way to quickly develop prototype models, as well as creating key design elements and improvements.

Furthermore, different designs and materials can be tested and used, leading to a cheaper and more effective final products. As such, items such as PPE can be promptly produced and delivered to healthcare facilities.

For instance, in Italy engineers addressed severe ventilator shortages by making ventilators using 3D-printed parts.

Furthermore, Y Soft’s team in the Czech Republic used 3D printing to address the lack of PPE in hospitals. The team adapted an earlier model to create plastic face shields that are now being used in hospitals throughout the country.

At present, according to Y Soft, the 3D printed design is being used in the COVID-19 collection tent of the Central Military Hospital, Polyclinic Vinin in Brno, Bohnice Hospital psychiatric hospital in Prague, and Thomayer Hospital, one of the largest medical facilities in the country, also in Prague.

Y Soft states the shield uses a sheet of plastic that sits just off the wearer’s face, which is inserted into a 3D printed frame and is secured around the head with a rubber band.

These plastic sheets can be removed and disposed of, meaning the 3D-printed head frame can be sanitised and reused and the whole piece of equipment doesn’t have to be discarded.

According to Y Soft, the shields can be used by medical staff when N95 type face masks are not available or when staff are not in direct contact with patients, such as in laboratories and other areas of medical facilities.

The shields can also be used in addition to the N95’s for added protection. Furthermore, using YSoft be3D eDee printers in the Czech offices, the Y Soft team plans to increase production capacity to 500 shields per day, while also adapting the shield design to incorporate feedback from hospital staff.

Other Y Soft offices around the world are exploring opportunities to replicate the shields and provide them to healthcare facilities in their own regions, the company states.

Y Soft founder Vclav Muchna says, “The world was not prepared for the current situation. While we cannot handle massive production, it turns out that everyone can voluntarily contribute their own efforts. That's why we got involved as a company.

“Our office workers around the world can also use affordable 3D printers to print protective equipment for healthcare professionals. It is a way to help people in hospitals. We are in this together.”