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3 Things you need to know about 3D printing medical equipment

March 26, 2020

COVID19 has hit all of us hard and unexpectingly but it is also bringing all of us together as a community. Many are trying to figure out how they can help the medical workers on the front lines. First, stay home! Second, make informed decisions about what you are 3D printing. 

We have been getting tons of calls and emails about the best materials to 3D print masks or other medical devices. Things like this mask are a no-no with additive manufacturing: 

There are a few reasons why this is a bad idea:

1. The 3D printed mask is not going to be airtight around the face, and having air leaks in your mask is as good as not having one on. 

2. There are inherent manufacturing side effects with 3D printing. When extruding and stacking layers on top of each other, the process creates microscopic pores. Some printers will do a better job at managing these micro-defects but there is no way to guarantee perfection or even control the amount of defects.

While you can clean and sanitize the outer layer of a 3D printed part, you are leaving these holes untouched. The crevices are an ideal gathering place for bacteria, especially with a mask where hot air from your nose and mouth keeps those channels nice and warm. 

3. These masks are not approved by medical experts and printing these without an end user is simply a waste of time and resources that can be put towards making useful things. 

If you do have to use something like this mask then use materials the are inherently "germaphobic": 

CPE, PET, rPET, PETG, and PP would fall under this category. Notice that all the above points still apply to these materials when 3D printed! 

These facts make it harder to find proper use cases to utilize your 3D printers. So how can you help?

  • Work directly with your local first responders and hospitals or with their approved vendors to get approval for printing equipment. 
  • Visit Covidstop.ca to see how you can help with 3D printing face shields 

 



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