Printing 3D masks for health workers

07 Apr 2020

To address the reports of personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages, a group of 3D-printing specialists from across Australia have come together to create the much-needed gear for frontline health workers using their specialist technical skills.

St Vincent’s ACMD team has been focusing on conducting research into tissue engineering, but since COVID-19 hit Australian shores, the lab has deployed its resources to focus on making facial shields.

They are currently producing about 20 units of face shields a day to address a shortage of personal protective equipment needed to fight the Coronavirus.

The shields, in combination with an N-95 face mask, help protect medical workers from airborne droplets that can carry the virus.

"We are producing about 20 units a day of our face shield design which we supply to some of the clinics at St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne," engineer and lab manager Cathal O'Connell told SBS News.

"Our main role being a fabrication lab based within a hospital is that we can try multiple designs with the clinicians themselves, get their approval, and then send out the approved design to the big 3D printing sites who can manufacture them in numbers of hundreds."

The original design of the facial shield originates from Prusa Research, a Czech-based tech company that designs 3D printers to build face shields.

Orthopaedic surgeon Claudia Di Bella has collaborated with Mr O'Connell in recent weeks in optimising the original design for local use. She says the shortage of PPE has been concerning health workers for weeks.

"We are, at the end of the day, the soldiers in this fight, and we are fighting an enemy that is invisible," she said.

"We don't know whether a patient might potentially have the virus or not, so this collaboration has allowed the bio-fabrication world to really chip in and help in what we're trying to achieve, which is basically protection for everyone in the medical workforce."

Click here to read the SBS article.