3D printing is a construction system that is computer-controlled and makes use of materials like plastic to design and create physical objects. The ease of creating objects locally, especially medical tools, can ease the burden of healthcare workers in the ongoing COVID pandemic.
The Role of Plastics in 3D Printing
3D printing technology has been around for several decades, with many organizations and researchers using photo-hardening plastics to fabricate 3D models and objects.
However, one of the most common methods of plastic 3D printing is fused filament fabrication. With this method, a filament of thermoplastic is fed into the 3D printer and is melted and applied layer-by-layer to the 3D printed object.
The Use of 3D Printing During the COVID Pandemic
Due to the ongoing pandemic, many hospitals and care centers are burdened with the demand for PPE and specific medical equipment. The global supply chain has also witnessed a disruption in the last few months, making transportation of essential equipment a challenge.
Plastic 3D printed items suffer no such disruptions. They can be created locally and could be an ideal solution to such issues.
3D printing was used to deal with the rising demand for ventilator support, and several organizations around the globe responded with 3D printed alternatives.
For instance, Plastic splitters were created with 3D printed to allow multiple patients to utilize a single ventilator. 3D printer was also used to create plastic face shields, and design well-fitting face masks. What’s more, 3D printed plastic objects can also be recycled by melting them down to their original polymer form. They can then be re-used in 3D printing.
Due to the adaptable and fast nature of 3D printing, temporary emergency shelters made from PVC fabric were also created during the pandemic. They were used in situations where hospitals were overloaded with patients and faced difficulties in isolating them. Such emergency shelters were deployed promptly, with the additional benefit of redeployment and easy transportation.
A less direct application of plastic 3D printing items that were relevant to the pandemic included the manufacture of training equipment for healthcare personnel. For instance, a company in Singapore developed 3D printed translucent training mannequins for trainees, so that they could practice collecting swabs for the COVID test.
As you can see, 3D printing technology was widely used in the pandemic and is here to stay. With the help of plastics, manufacturers can design and create essential items locally and in bulk. Plastic also offers many benefits of being low cost, versatile, durable, lightweight, and water-resistant, making it an ideal material for 3D printing.