Apr 3, 2020

Supporting the Healthcare System with 3D Printing – Thomas’ Story

When Massive’s MD David Polfeldt sent out a studio-wide email asking if there was anyone with a 3D printer who could help the local health care by printing protective face shield, Senior Pipeline Coordinator Thomas Skareteg immediately got involved.

Today, he’s printing about one protective face shield an hour, and plans to create 200 more during the two coming weeks. Learn more about the process of 3D printing protective face shields and why Thomas decided to get involved in this article.

“When I first started with 3D printing, I decided on a mid-range printer which was open source both when it comes to software and hardware. The open source mindset aligns very well with the basic philosophy of the entire 3D printing community,” explains Thomas Skareteg.

As soon as the Covid-19 pandemic was a fact and that medical supplies was dwindling everywhere, the community reacted and spurred into action.

“Most people are hobbyist, makers, problem solvers and designers all working together and sharing almost everything open source. So, as soon as the Covid-19 pandemic was a fact and that medical supplies was dwindling everywhere, the community reacted and spurred into action. We started sharing ideas, and various designs to various problems popped up all over the place. People from all around the world started checking with their local hospitals what they could do to help – regulations and best practices were investigated, and small organizations formed to manage and distribute production.”

But it wasn’t until one of the big 3D printer manufacturers got involved that the whole thing went viral.

“The manufacturers of the original Prusa printer – which is the brand I own – came out with their own design after working with local authorities in the Czech Republic, proving it could be done. In the span of a few days, social media posts about it had reached 1.6 million views. The community wants to help in any way they can, and this design is currently being adopted in the US, among other countries.”

Why did you decide to get involved in this initiative?
When this first popped up, I was immediately interested, but decided to wait for what would come out of the regulatory requirements and an official go-head. And when our MD David Polfeldt sent out an e-mail to everyone at Massive asking if we could help, I decided to get involved since I want to do my part.

When I did my first delivery this Tuesday, I heard that there are now over 50 people helping in the Malmö area, but the current need is 1000 face shields per day – and it’s growing.

When our MD David Polfeldt sent out an e-mail to everyone at Massive asking if we could help, I decided to get involved since I want to do my part.

Is it difficult to 3D print protective face shields?
If you have never 3D printed in your life before, you should probably not run and buy a 3D printer right now. There is still a learning curve depending on the hardware you go with.
For me, it’s almost second nature by now, as with any hobby. I have been doing it for two years and would consider myself an intermediate user.

I’m using a design by a company called 3DVERKSTAN, which is very simple and easily manufacturable.

The 3DVERKSTAD design is much simpler than many others out there with only one single part, and it requires nothing but a basic overhead sheet, a hole puncher, and the 3D printed part.

The model works on almost any printer out there, as long as the print bed is big enough making production scalable.

How many have you made so far? And how many are you planning to make?

The current goal for everyone helping with 3D printing in Malmö right now is to make 1x visor per hour.

Personally, I can produce around 20 in a day. Since I joined this venture on Friday the 27th of March, I have made around 100 protective face shields. And I plan to continue making them as long as there is a need and I have material for it. My next quota is for 200 more in the next two weeks.

Since I joined this venture on Friday the 27th of March, I have made around 100 protective face shields.

The need is huge, and even if we would overproduce in the Malmö-Lund area, they will be distributed to other parts of Sweden which have a need for them.

What kinds of materials are used?
The model can be printed in almost any material (such as PLA, CPE, PETG, ABS). The most important thing is that it needs to be able to withstand disinfection fluid.

But what about regulations?
Every country, as well as the EU, have their own rules and regulations for medical supplies (PPE), which is also the case for us in Sweden. A company called 3DVERKSTAN, also designed a very simple and easily manufacturable design in parallel with Prusa. The initial design for this one was made in Stockholm, and all the questions about regulations, CE markings for medical supplies, and requirements got picked up by the media, and so the questions were quickly directed to the government and also to EU on a grand scale. It took a few days, but soon the regulation issues were solved.

The conclusion was that protective face shields are a product fitting for 3D printing by regular citizens. Additionally, they are also in very short supply, but simple enough to be produced and approved regulatory-wise. Before this decision, some hospital workers even took sheets of overhead plastic, made a few holes and simply put a cable tie through it as it was ‘better than nothing’.

How is the Malmö-Lund region working with this locally?

Different regions in Sweden have different rules. Here in the Malmö-Lund area, an organization called X-lab at Lund Tekniska Högskola [Lund university], worked with local institutions and the municipal of both Lund and Malmö to oversee the regulations of the 3D printed facial shields. In collaboration with the two cities, there is now a central collection point where everything is sent for disinfection and final assembly before being distributed for use at healthcare facilities, hospitals and more.

For each location in Sweden – and also in other countries – there are groups organizing every aspect of creation and distribution to make this happen.

What is the process of making 3D printed face shields?

If you don’t design the part yourself, it’s only a matter of loading a design into a slicer software – in my case, it’s the ”Prusa slicer”. Adding the settings can be an easy task for beginners with a bare minimum of options, or very advanced for expert users with a hundred options and tweaks.

If you don’t design the part yourself, it’s only a matter of loading a design into a slicer software.

An example is that when I first loaded in the model, I managed to get the printing time to around 1h 47min for two pieces, but the great minds of the community crunching settings and trying things out squeezed that down to 1h 7min while still keeping the quality. In the end it´s all about knowing your specific machine and its limitations.

Example of a slicing software that is used to create the actual machine code (gcode) that printers use.

What can people do to help?

Depending on where you are in the world, you can support your local maker space and check if they are doing something similar to this and how you can get involved. Each region and country have their own way of looking at this.

A very popular controller software for 3D printers called “Octoprint” have started to gather information for different countries and that list is available here.

If you are located in Sweden and wants to support a medical regional organization that are taking on the producer’s responsibility, check here for more information

Stay safe out there – and please thank the amazing 3D printing community which made all of this possible.

 

 

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