Is 3D printing a potential solution during the Coronavirus outbreak?
Last week, the Additive Manufacturing Users Group took the decision to postpone the AMUG Conference to 2021. A clear sign that concerns about the spread of the Coronavirus have not diminished. The AMUG Conference is an important event in the additive manufacturing world, gathering every year hundreds of attendees with a deep knowledge of AM. Therefore, the decision to postpone it was not taken lightly. “This was a very difficult decision, but the Board of Directors agreed that in the best interest of our members and those that support the event we will postpone our annual Conference and Business Meeting,” stated Carl Dekker, AMUG President. Will more upcoming events be postponed?
It has just been announced that RAPID + TCT will be postponed to 2021 as well. The event is probably the biggest trade show in additive manufacturing, gathering thousands of people every year. “In unprecedented and extremely fast-moving circumstances, we actively participated in and supported the difficult decision to postpone this important event,” said Duncan Wood, CEO Rapid News Publications Ltd. “We are all aware that this decision will require industry professionals, exhibitors, partners, and visitors from around the world to reschedule their attendance, which will have an impact on their organizations as it will for SME and Rapid News Group. We are grateful that given the current situation the international community has showed great understanding and supported our collective decision, and we look forward to a successful 2021 event in Chicago.”
Given these developments, actors in the sector have started developing solutions to contain the spread of the virus. For example, the 3D printing company Materialise, has designed a 3D printed door opener that makes it possible to open and close doors with your arm, removing the need for direct contact with door handles. The company is offering the printable design for free and calling upon the global 3D printing community to 3D print the door opener and make it available all around the world. The company developed the door opener because many experts believe that the Coronavirus can survive on surfaces for an extended time, and door handles represent a high risk of contamination. Fried Vancraen CEO of Materialise added: “By making the design available digitally, it can be produced on 3D printers everywhere and become available around the world in a matter of hours. In this case, we designed the product in Belgium and people in China, Europe or the U.S. can now 3D print the door opener locally.”
In Italy, where the situation is probably the most extreme in Europe, projects have emerged such as the Pugliese-Sicilian open source mask project. Masks are becoming harder and harder to find, and when you can find them they can be extremely expensive. This is why the Italian team set up a web platform to allow users to freely download the file to print the mask at home. The team behind the project explains: “In this scenario we decided to force the system of production and large-scale distribution by creating a completely open-source project that everyone can draw on, improving it, spreading it, finding application even beyond the COVID-19 alarm“.
Another impressive development in the last few days is also the work of Italian researchers. A hospital in Brescia was facing an important issue, its personnel was out of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) valves. In these situations, finding a solution quickly is very crucial, and is where 3D printing technologies can offer a lot. In a short amount of time, 3D printers were brought to the hospital and the valves were designed on CAD software and 3D printed. Massimo Temporelli, the founder of The FabLab in Milan conducted part of this procedure and reports that the system with the 3D printed valve works well – currently, there are 10 patients using it!
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