3Diligent Coronavirus Response Update: Face Shields and Where 3D Printers Can Make the Biggest Impact
This is an update with regards to 3Diligent’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and related Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) shortage.
First off, we are pleased to share that we had a very effective meeting of some of the most talented manufacturers and designers of medical equipment in our manufacturing network. In those meetings, we aligned around face shield design concepts that we will be posting to all Shopsight user accounts soon. We look forward to additional guidance from bodies including the FDA, NIH, and America Makes to rapidly upload additional authorized designs and manufacturing specs to the software to support distributed fabrication.
You may be asking why face shields? Why not face masks or respirators or some of the other personal protective equipment that is in short supply? In brief, there are key challenges with regards to the production of those types of respiratory medical devices that limit the ability to scale up manufacturing supply on a massively distributed scale. This is driven by the fact it is very challenging to quickly test things involving the passage of air and the small particles within that air. There is no easy visual test to tell how many virus-sized particles are able to find their way through a device’s defense. This is true even when combining a mask or respirator design with filters proven to meet this standard. While there are filters in the market that have cleared the N95 certification threshold or well above that, the seal between that filter any medical equipment it is assembled with can bring into question the efficacy of the finished product.
To put it another way, you might 3D print a perfectly good mask replica and you might place a perfectly good filter on the back of that replica, but without a well-defined process around how those two pieces are put together, you could be creating a situation where the new medical device is not actually achieving its intended purpose. Or even worse, you could print a mask using a 3D Printing process that is by its nature somewhat porous, so if you aren’t using a filter to cover all interior surfaces of the mask, it’s purpose would be defeated. There would be nothing worse than sending our medical workers into situations where they are convinced they are protected but, in fact, they are not. That actually could lead to higher levels of infection and negative impacts. As you may have noticed, many leading medical institutions have opted to turn down the contributions of masks and other respiratory equipment because of these difficulties in being able to effectively test them. Those medical facilities are not set up to test devices in the way of that, for instance, the Food and Drug Administration is.
With that in mind, where non-certified medical-manufacturing facilities absolutely should be focusing their efforts is on face shields. These are easily manufactured using a laser cutter or 3D printer to create a headband and connect that band to a shield made of readily purchased sheets of clear material, commonly polyethylene. The burden of effectiveness that these face shields need to demonstrate is just that they block liquids from hitting the face of the medical professional. This is very easily demonstrated and as a result that is the ideal solution at this time for the broad-based maker or nonmedical manufacturing community.
All of this is not to say the nonmedical manufacturing community may not have a critical role to play in fighting this fight beyond the scope of face shields. ‘m pleased to note the FDA, NIH, and America makes are working feverishly to advance other manufacturing concepts that can be widely manufactured. In the meantime, anyone wishing to participate in 3Diligent’s coordinated response on behalf of hospitals and hospital groups is encouraged to sign up for a Shopsight account. We will be combining and redistributing the requests of these medical organizations to the distributed manufacturing community so we can ensure the supply is out there is working on the right set of instructions and what they produce is delivered to the most pressing demand. For anyone seeking to simply support their local hospital but wanting to utilize the software to ensure good manufacturing practice, the ability to upload your own orders and fulfill them using our manufacturing management tools is also just fine.
Important progress was made this week with regards to the coronavirus response, but there is still a long way yet to go. In New York City, the peak demand for these devices is expected to be two to three weeks away, and that is not to say anything for the rest of the country. Where we are—Los Angeles—some say the demand curve looks to be lagging about a week behind New York City. In places such as Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, and cities and towns across the country, the spread is happening, and the lack of readily available tests makes it difficult to stop in its tracks. So wherever you are and whatever capacity you have to manufacture, there certainly will be a demand somewhere in this country for your efforts. To the extent we can help connect you with that demand, please join us by creating a Shopsight account.