As the world remains in the grip of COVID-19, testing has become critically important. It will be through testing that an understanding of this deadly virus and how to contain it will be found.
This article will explore how 3-D printing companies provide insight and solutions to a pandemic that is ravaging countries across the globe.
How COVID-19 Is Spurring Innovation Among 3D Printing Companies
The additive manufacturing industry continues to play a key role in addressing problems caused by the pandemic. When supplies are limited, additive manufacturing – better known as 3-D printing, can boost the production of much-needed equipment.
The process of 3-D printing allows manufacturers to create complex medical devices and body parts at a fraction of the cost.
It eliminates the need for time-consuming processes such as sculpting, forging, and molding. Additive manufacturing is a straightforward process.
Modeling software helps create a design. Once created, the design heads to the printer. The 3D printer adds material layer by layer to produce a fully formed structure.
This technology has been used to develop equipment for COVID-19 relief efforts. Items that were once in short supply can be rapidly created with on-demand production.
Face shields along with parts for respirators and ventilators have been produced quickly and at a reduced cost. Additive manufacturing is also proving to be especially helpful in understanding the effect the virus has on organs.
How 3D Printing Companies Are Improving Lung Research
Researchers have yet to determine the long-term effects of COVID-19 on the human body. But in an attempt to gain a better understanding of the virus’ impact, Axial3D joined forces with Belfast Health and Social Care Trust’s respiratory team.
Using 3D printing, they recreated a scale 3D lung model of a COVID-19 patient based on CT scans. The model has helped the team visualize the scar tissue and inflammatory pus in the airways of the patient’s lungs.
As a result, they are in a better position to understand the long-term damage caused by the virus.
Roger Johnston, CEO at Axial3D says, “We are now able to visualize lungs as they have never been seen before. We’ve been able to provide the team with a completely new way of viewing and understanding the long-term effects of the infection.”
How 3D Printing Companies Are Boosting Nasal Swab Production
Additive manufacturing creates nasal swabs to test for COVID-19. A coronavirus detection test often involves the insertion of a nasal swab along the septum.
The five-inch-long swab probes the cavity until the nasopharynx is reached. Once secretions are collected and removed, they are transferred to a sterile container for lab testing.
Unfortunately, some countries lack enough supplies which can inhibit their ability to conduct life-saving tests. Nasal swabs have to be specifically designed to test for COVID.
Although they look like q-tips, their construction is more complex. As the virus spreads, the demand for nasal swabs continues to grow.
To keep up with the increasing demand, select companies are employing the use of resin-based 3D printing.
Carbon, EnvisionTEC, Formlabs, and HP are four such companies capable of making fine-detail and high-resolution printing. They are closely working with healthcare providers to create COVID-19 nasal swabs.
How 3D Printing Companies Are Meeting the Demand for Training Nasal Swabbers
Nasal swabs are great for testing, but they can’t be used by themselves. Swabbers are needed to administer them correctly.
So AuMed, a medical product simulator company, joined forces with a 3D printing company called Creatz3D to address this issue.
Using data from AuMed’s MRI and CT library, Creatz3D designed several anatomically realistic 3D models and combined them into a single structure. The result was a life-sized manikin that medical professionals are using to train inexperienced swabbers.
The medical manikins have features suitable for nasopharyngeal, nasal mid-turbinate, and oropharyngeal swab testing. They are partially transparent allowing trainees to see the swab as it moves.
As a result, trainers are better able to demonstrate the best way to insert, rotate, and remove the swabs. A moveable tongue allows trainees to practice with a tongue depressor.
A series of swab training sessions conducted by the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery proved the efficacy of using 3D nose models. After the training, all participants felt more confident in administering a successful swab with little discomfort.
They all had a preference for using a 3D-printed nose model to perform swab training. Of the participants who swabbed real patients, all of them felt that the 3D models helped prepare them for performing swabs on real patients.
As COVID vaccines are being created, 3D printing companies are using technological advancements to help stem the rising tide of infections.
By taking an innovative approach to a life-threatening problem, these companies are helping to expedite COVID care.
From lung research to nasal swabs, 3D printing companies are leaving an indelible print on the landscape of medical technology.