It’s no longer big news that the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19 is creating sanitary challenges like never seen before. At this point, and without a vaccine or effective treatment, the use of masks and other types of personal protective equipment (PPE), is the best way to limit the spread of the virus circulation.
At the beginning of this crisis, the absolute lack of protective materials boosted a myriad of initiatives to quickly design, produce and fabricate this equipment in order to, mainly, keep our healthcare professionals safe while performing their invaluable work. Many, such as ourselves through the Here to Help project, turned to 3D printing to create a quick and consistent manufacturing line of items such as protective face shields.
Nowadays, the challenge is to maintain the supply of masks, which are often not made for reuse, as well as other PPE, such as face shields.
Additive manufacturing, leveraging technologies such as 3D printing, has already proven its capacity to help to meet the demand for masks and other equipment, particularly in the case of reusable masks. However, we are faced with stark disparities across Europe in the standards and varieties of PPE and the coordination of regulatory certification.
That’s why, a group of partners of which we are proud and honored to be members, has established CAR3D, the Covid-19 Rapid Response Innovation Project. This group will work to design, develop, and validate reusable masks that comply with EU specifications, making that design available for replication around Europe. The masks will meet quality standards in areas such as ergonomics, breathability, and comfortable skin contact.
The partners will also seek to design face shields that meet EU standards. The PPE created through this project will not receive a proprietary patent, and the digital designs will be shared widely so that local additive manufacturers all over Europe can engage in the production of high quality, reusable masks, and face shields.
The immediate aims of this project are to reduce the pressure of the procurement of PPE by ensuring that a greater supply of products that meet EU standards are widely available. Increased production will also reduce dependence on suppliers from outside Europe, as well as the use of PPE that does not meet European quality standards. Involving Additive manufacturing suppliers means that the current demand can be met without the need to scale up a new, dedicated industry, and it establishes a network of suppliers who can be called on in other emergencies.