How 3D Printing Is Helping Fight Coronavirus

  • New York hospitals are utilising 3D technologies to print nasal swabs for coronavirus testing.
  • Numerous 3D printing groups are helping to combat the personal protective equipment shortage resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Hands-free 3D-printed door openers and ventilator valves are also being printed in efforts to save lives amidst the pandemic.

New York-based healthcare provider Northwell Health has begun making their own 3D-printed nasal swabs, massively speeding up the coronavirus testing process. The printing company Formlabs is able to produce up to 75,000-150,000 swabs per day in an effort to combat testing kit shortages.

Researchers at Northwell worked alongside the University of South Florida, Tampa General Hospital and Formlabs, a Massachusetts-based 3D printing company. Together, they designed the innovative printing method to create swabs for mucus and cell sample collection. Lead researcher, Todd Goldstein worked with a team to test ten patients with standard swabs and then the new 3D printed swabs and compare the results. The pilot study approved the devices as safe and effective, and they are currently printing thousands of swabs per day.

Nasal Swabs created by 3D printing by Formlabs, Massachusetts.

The collaborative research group plans to share their design with other institutions in the hopes that other hospitals will follow suit. As the largest healthcare provider in New York state, Northwell has 23 hospitals in the area worst affected in the US by the coronavirus. Health experts agree that widespread testing is key to tracking the spread of the coronavirus. Northwell says that any hospital with access to a 3D printer and the materials can print their own swabs and expand their testing capabilities. Formlabs is also working with US hospitals to print face shields and surgical masks.

Numerous 3D printing companies around the world are using their technologies to aid hospitals in producing medical devices.

Stratasys, the American 3D printer manufacturer, has committed to printing disposable medical face masks and shields to assist with containment efforts. They have already provided thousands of shields to medical personnel in the US free of charge. They have set up a web page for organisations to request 3D printed products, printers or materials to help with the crisis:

Prusa3D, a Czech company, is providing free files to print medical-quality protective face shields. You can access the design at:

Protective face shield 3D-printed by Prusa3D.

Materialise, a Belgium-based company, is using their 3D technologies to support sanitation efforts by sharing design files for a hands-free door opener. The company initially created the easy-to-fit design in efforts to protect its own staff within workplaces. The opener attached to door handles to allow people to open them with their forearm. Access the design here:

In Italy, FabLab and startup Issinova are working together in a tremendous effort to 3D-print emergency replacement respirator valves for a hospital in Chiari, northern Italy. The valves connect oxygen masks to respirators used by coronavirus patients. The companies offered their technologies when the hospital needed to change the respirator valves but couldn’t immediately source any through its normal supply chain.

3D-printed emergency replacement respirator valves.