3D Printing News
3D-printed Personal Protective Equipment
It all started at Cornell University’s Electrical and Computer Engineering department, when it received an urgent email request for 3D-printed personal protective equipment (PPE) donations for Weill Cornell Medical Center, the university’s medical branch in New York City. As is known, the pandemic is overwhelming New York City, already at a crisis shortage for protective gear against Covid-19. Response was quick at Cornell and soon, over 60 hours, 3 volunteers became 50, 5 3D printers became 106.
Soon, Cornell’s College of Architecture, Art and Planning, which houses many of the university’s 3D printers, joined the cause, dedicating its printers and resources, including those with 3D printers at home, to donate their time and materials to producing the visors – 50,000 of which a day is needed in New York City.
It’s a strange activity going on at the otherwise closed campus. The university is also currently transitioning to online instructions during the lockdown. However, work goes on at the departments involved. Facial shields being produced by Cornell faculty and students consist of a plastic visor piece that is worn across the forehead and a sheet of disposable polyethylene, cut in the university’s digital fabrication lab. There are many students who are printing the visor pieces from home.
How is this quick response possible?
The characteristic spirit of 3D printing is rooted in its capability to be open-sourced. Makers are able to easily collaborate on and edit 3D files. But does this accessibility guarantee that the informal PPE supply chain is turning out products that are good quality, and will keep health care workers safe? The Cornell-printed visors are from a 3D model file approved by medical professionals at Weill. The file itself, which was designed and released by 3Dverkstan, a Swedish 3D printing consultancy, has been downloaded over 10,000 times and is being used in over 20 countries.
Quality control is a challenge as people cannot be controlled in printing what they like. However, to prevent mess ups, the design is made as simple as possible. 3D-printed PPE is not a long term substitution as there are so many more efficient ways to be doing this. But during these difficult times, every single visor counts. As of March 27, the group had donated and delivered almost 500 visors to healthcare workers in New York City. As the volunteers increase in number and become more experienced, they estimate to produce over 1,000 visors a day.