What is the Role of 3D Printing in Medicine Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Following the events that transpired in the earlier months of this year, the World Health Organization was left with no other choice but was compelled to classify the coronavirus disease as a qualified pandemic. It has taken over the world.  The announcement was made public on March 12, 2020.

Needless to say, as days and weeks went by it brought about social and economic downturn,  with community lockdowns implemented in heavily affected countries. Eventually, this pandemic has put the global healthcare systems in a critical strain because of the surmounting shortages on medical respiratory equipment and hospital beds for affected patients, most of which are male.  

corona virusCOVID-19 patients are in harm’s way for acute respiratory distress syndrome. In order to survive, they need a high-level of respiratory support, most of the time via ventilator machines. 

The situation we have above has created a significant amount of pressure on PPE or personal protective equipment supplies. Healthcare professionals and workers (frontline nurses, hospital attendants, and employees) have dire need for these PPEs for them to extend needed help in treating critically ill patients. 

As of this writing, it is very evident that there are medical supply chain disruptions happening throughout the United States and even in Europe at the hospital level. In the US alone, there is a looming crisis in PPEs in  New York and Washington states. 

What we are trying to aim for in this content is to emphasize the recent collaborations and initiatives carried out by hospitals, private companies, and research bodies in utilizing 3D printing (additive manufacturing) systems at the height of the COVID-19 crisis. 

The additive manufacturing sector can realign its medical attention on a global scale and capitalize instead on large scale facilities for manufacturing purposes as well as the distribution of tested and verified CAD files.   

Our Recommendations and Conclusions

 In addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, we are encouraging additive manufacturing professionals to reach out and communicate with their local supply chain (for hospitals), and if possible make it also with national strategic stockpile holders. 

This global crisis is requiring us to come up with an open and organized form of communication. 

In Canada and the United States, state and local supply chain experts are relaying the best information they have with regard to what they have on backorder, in transit, or on stock.  

Medical devices are regulated for safety concerns. While every one of us, both in private and government sectors are responding to the crisis in a number of unprecedented ways, the 3D printing community needs to work alongside to make sure that highly sensitive and emergency parts are secure and safe. 

And even with the growing urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic, standard quality and safety measures of additive manufacturing firms need to continue to be followed. 

On a larger scale, academic medical centers that have formed partnerships between hospital institutions and university-based additive manufacturing resources, this is usually established in place, but careful and thorough review of the appropriate safety protocols should be maintained. 

Implementing unregulated parts safely is crucial since the inherent benefit and risk ratios are likely to change in a snap while the supplies and stocks for medical equipment are fast becoming unavailable and inaccessible. As for the regulatory bodies and business entities, they are encouraged to work hand-in-hand with the 3D printing community

For hospital systems that are taking advantage of the 3-dimensional printing system, a concern for liability is anticipated looming on the horizon with additive manufacturing materials that don’t come with safety and quality measures in place. Such systems are expected to quickly address this concern if not done already.  



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