3D printing initiatives to provide PPE equipment for hospitals

. Mar 31, 2020
3D printing initiatives to provide PPE equipment for Brazilian hospitals

Researchers, universities, entrepreneurs, and volunteers from all over Brazil are joining initiatives to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospitals using 3D printing, in an attempt to better protect health professionals on the frontline of the Covid-19 outbreak

The initiatives come at a moment PPE shortages not only in Brazil, but worldwide amid the coronavirus pandemic. A report from weekly news magazine show Fantástico, from Globo TV, says that the Brazilian Medical Association (AMB) and the National Nursing Council have received roughly 4,000 complaints and inspection requests due to shortages and professionals working without the proper equipment in the past two weeks. 

And while the lack of

resources is a well-known issue in public hospitals, even private institutions are showing signs of strain. According to news website <em>UOL</em> news website, Hospital Albert Einstein, a leading institution in Brazil, is also <a href="">restricting the use of PPE</a> among its staff.  </p> <p>The AMB has created a <a href="">platform to receive complaints </a>and, as of March 29, 2,513 reports of PPE shortages were registered in the country.&nbsp;</p> <p>On March 30, the Health Ministry <a href="">reported</a> it had already shipped resources to the most affected states, such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, including 14.2 million surgical masks, 24 million gloves for non-surgical procedures, 742,000 aprons, 290,000 scrub caps, 168,000 bottles of alcohol disinfectant, 100,000 shoes, and 60,000 pairs of protective glasses, and it says it is working to procure millions of units of PPE equipment.&nbsp;</p> <p>However, the total demand for the coming weeks and months is as of yet unknown. According to volunteers, 3D printing may be a viable alternative for professionals who need top-notch protection to deal with contaminated patients. And now, thousands of volunteers all over Brazil are working non-stop to produce reusable 3D printed face-shields, which block particles from reaching doctors and nurses eyes — while masks only protect the mouth and nose.</p> <h2>Helping hospitals during the &#8216;war effort&#8217;   </h2> <p>One of these initiatives is <a href="">Projeto Higia</a>, created by members of the activist group Women in 3D Printing Brazil. In São José dos Campos, a city in the countryside of São Paulo, researchers from the Mao3D project — an initiative from the Federal University of São Paulo (Unifesp) that prints prosthetic hands and arms — used the resources available to print the first face shields.&nbsp;</p> <p>Thamires Verri Ribeiro, a biomedical engineering student at Unifesp who is a member of the project, says the idea arose when her professor, Maria Elizete Kunkel, heard about the PPE shortages after reaching out leading public hospital Hospital São Paulo.</p> <p>“In a bit more than a week, we were able to come up with a project, gathering roughly 2,000 male and female volunteers to print the equipment all over Brazil,” Ms. Ribeiro told <strong>The Brazilian Report.&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Their crowdfunding campaign fundraised BRL 50,000, donated to pay for acetate to produce 100,000 face shields; in the past four days, 2,000 units were produced and delivered, says Ms. Ribeiro. However, that is still not enough to meet the demand of over 300,000 units from 200 hospitals. “We are debating on how to deliver them, based on the order of requests and logistics. For instance, we are still delivering in São José dos Campos, but when we meet the local demand, we’ll change the area,” said Ms. Ribeiro, who is producing up to 15 face shields per day in her own home.</p> <h2>Not enough to go around</h2> <p>While initiatives are spread across the country, financial aid has not kept up the pace. In the northeastern state of Pernambuco, the local creative community launched the <a href="">Cada Impressão Conta</a> (Every Printing Counts) campaign, boosted by institutions such as digital innovation hub Porto Digital. As of March 30, the crowdfunding campaign raised only BRL 3,000 from its BRL 50,000 target.</p> <p>Among volunteers, companies and institutions, roughly 200 people are working to produce and distribute 3D-printed face shields, as well as structuring and publicizing the campaign. Their goal is to step in until the industry finds a way to fulfill the demand, explains Caio Scheidegger, innovation manager at Porto Digital and one of the campaign&#8217;s organizers.&nbsp;</p> <p>“We started to mobilize institutions, industries, and manufacturers about a week ago. There was a large effort to identify who had the equipment and knowledge to start producing. (&#8230;) The industry is helping as well and we believe that in about a week they will be able to start producing using plastic injection, which is a much faster process than 3D printing with filaments,” he told <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong>.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>They continue to seek volunteers and have an <a href="">online form</a> open for those who want to help, as well as for hospitals that need access to the equipment. According to Mr. Scheidegger, the demand for face shields in Pernambuco state is 30,000 units and the volunteers are already producing between 500 to 1,000 per day, with an estimated cost of roughly BRL 30. However, the initial phase has already shown they will need to increase their budget to BRL 100,000 as inputs start to run out.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>So far, the project has focused on face shields, but they are aware that there is a high demand for other inputs such as respirator masks. While their community model has the agility and constant feedback from health teams as advantages, roadblocks such as the lack of resources and even technical knowledge have put a strain on the initiative.&nbsp;</p> <p>“It is hard to produce ventilators, for instance. We are mapping and sharing every solution, but we know that manufacturers and perhaps even the industry won’t be able to produce this complex equipment. Not all filaments work to produce valves, not all the 3D printing archives match the equipment we use here,” he said.

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Natália Scalzaretto

Natália Scalzaretto has worked for companies such as Santander Brasil and Reuters, where she covered news ranging from commodities to technology. Before joining The Brazilian Report, she worked as an editor for Trading News, the information division from the TradersClub investor community.

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