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  1. 3D printing could prove a lifesaver in helping treat coronavirus Out-of-stock parts for vital medical equipment can be 3D-printed (Image credit: 3D Printing Media Network / Lonati SpA) 3D printing could be a lifesaver in the face of supply shortages caused by coronavirus, with a 3D printer providing vital medical supplies to an Italian hospital. The hospital in Brescia – located in an area of northern Italy suffering at the hands of the virus outbreak – was running out of replacement valves for ‘reanimation’ machines which provide desperately needed respiratory aid to those who have contracted coronavirus. With no way to get replacement valves thanks to the supplier running out of stock – another side-effects of the virus – the solution was to use a 3D printer. A company by the name of Isinnova responded to a call for help from Massimo Temporelli (founder of The FabLab in Milan), and Isinnova’s CEO, Cristian Fracassi, personally brought a 3D printer into the hospital, managing to replicate and produce the missing valve. The very next day, Saturday, March 14, these 3D-printed replacements were proved to work, and 10 patients were soon on functioning machines that helped them breathe while using a part produced by the 3D printer. Vital replacements Doubtless there will be other cases where replacements for vital equipment are needed, and may indeed be provided by 3D printing – a lot of lives could be potentially saved. More valves were being produced by another printing outfit, Lonati SpA – as pictured in the above image – except in this case they are using a polymer laser powder bed fusion process (as opposed to filament extrusion, which was employed by Isinnova’s CEO). Source: 3D printing could prove a lifesaver in helping treat coronavirus (TechRadar)
  2. A new spin on 3D printing can produce an object in seconds Rotational 3D printing could have your model printed in 30 seconds. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all 3 images. 3D printers are great for rapid prototyping and building low-volume, specialized parts, but they sure can take a while. Today's 3D printers might be called "3D printers" but really, the print heads work in 2D. A 3D model is sliced up into hundreds of 2D horizontal layers and slowly built up, one layer at a time. This layer-by-layer process can take hours or even days, but what if we could print the entire model at once? A new technique demonstrated by researchers from Switzerland's Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)—and further detailed in this Nature article— does just that and can print an entire model in seconds. The new technique builds a model by hardening a photosensitive resin with a laser, not unlike existing stereolithography (SLA) printers. The big difference here is the application of tomographic techniques, the same used in x-rays and ultrasounds, that allows for rotational printing. Laser light is modulated with a DLP chip (just like in old rear-projection HDTVs) and is blasted into a container full of resin. The laser covers the entire build volume, and the container of resin actually rotates while it's being exposed to the light. The laser projects the model at different rotational perspectives, which is synced up with the spinning resin, and a whole 3D model can be produced in seconds. The EPFL writes, "The system is currently capable of making two-centimeter structures with a precision of 80 micrometers, about the same as the diameter of a strand of hair. But as the team develops new devices, they should be able to build much bigger objects, potentially up to 15 centimeters." In this first public demonstration, the build volume is 16mm × 16mm × 20mm, making it one of the smallest 3D printers on earth. An 80 um resolution is also nothing to write home about and can be bested by ~$500 consumer SLA printers. It is very fast, though, and the technique is just getting started. Today, the most common form of photosensitive resin printers use stereolithography (SLA). These printers have a vat of resin with a window at the bottom, and on the other side of the window is a DLP projector. SLA printers still print one layer at a time: a build platform lowers into the resin from above and nearly touches the window, leaving just enough room for a single layer of resin between the window and the build plate. The DLP blasts the single layer of resin with the specific light pattern for that first layer, then the build platform moves up one layer, more resin pours in, and another layer is projected by the DLP. So a stereolithography printer hardens resin one layer at a time with a 2D display, while this rotational 3D printing method hardens resin all at once with something more akin a 3D laser hologram. Another benefit to this printing technique is that by printing an object suspended in the print solution, there is no need for additional support structures. The EPFL says this makes the technique a good idea for printing delicate or soft objects, including 3D bioprinting. The researchers have set up a spin-off company called "Readily 3D" to develop and market the technology. Listing image by EPFL Source: A new spin on 3D printing can produce an object in seconds (Ars Technica) (To view the article's image gallery, please visit the above link)
  3. 3D printing could help produce better computer chips 3D-printed tiny statue of Michelangelo’s David could mean big things for chips (Image credit: Giorgio Ercolano / Exaddon) The famous statue of David by Michelangelo is over 5 meters tall in real life, but has been recreated by a 3D printer as an incredibly tiny model – still maintaining its precise detail (as shown above), but being only 1mm tall. Researchers at ETH Zurich University used a 3D printing method invented by Giorgio Ercolano, R&D process engineer at Exaddon, and also created a second model of the statue which was 10 times smaller (so around 0.1mm), although it didn’t have nearly the same resolution and detailing. Note that the statues were fashioned out of copper and printed in one single seamless process, with no requirement for supports or templates during printing. These are certainly incredible feats and demonstrations of 3D printing themselves, but the miniature David statues are just a vehicle to highlight the potential of this technology, which could have major ramifications in the wider electronics and computing industry. Exaddon reckons that its CERES additive micro-manufacturing system (additive manufacturing is another term for 3D printing) could be used by manufacturers to connect computer chips together, or perform precise repairs on microelectronics systems. Precision and speed The larger David statue took some 30 hours to print, but the incredibly minuscule version only took 20 minutes to create. Peter Rüegg of ETH Zurich explains: “The core component of the process is a micropipette coupled to a cantilever; this makes it possible to monitor the force with which the point of the pipette touches the substrate. With this assembly, the researchers can electrochemically deposit dissolved metals onto an electrically conductive substrate with a high degree of precision. “Thanks to the optical force measurement that automates the process, they can build minuscule metal structures layer by layer. Exaddon adopted this micrometal printing method and improved on it, particularly as regards its speed.” Giorgio Ercolano further observed: “Our deep understanding of the printing process has led to a new way of processing the 3D computer model of the statue and then converting it into machine code. That’s what makes the new David statue so extraordinary. “This object has been sliced from an open-source CAD file and afterwards was sent directly to the printer. This slicing method enables an entirely new way to print designs with the CERES additive micro-manufacturing system.” Source: 3D printing could help produce better computer chips (TechRadar)
  4. 3D-printed shoes are coming – for a perfect fit every time Fed up of ill-fitting footwear? 3D printing could cure the shoe blues (Image credit: Casca) A Canadian startup is aiming to create a new world of shoe shopping in which the footwear, or insoles, are customized to your exact size because the product is 3D-printed to be a perfect fit. Casca, an operation based in Vancouver, has just launched its first retail outlet in the Canadian city. It offers tailor-made 3D-printed insoles, which are made to fit using a 3D model of your foot – and that model in turn is produced via an Android or iOS app that scans your foot and maps some 20,000 data points. The insoles are specifically made for, and supplied with, Casca shoes, and they are fashioned from 100% recyclable and non-toxic (thermoplastic polyurethane-based) materials. Casca shoes are designed for better support and according to the firm the FootB3D 3D-printed insoles “should support most foot shapes”. It isn’t recommended that you try to use them with your existing footwear, as they aren’t likely to fit well, and may constrict your feet (being chunkier than normal insoles, and specially designed to fit inside Casca footwear, which is shaped for them). If the shoe fits, print it At the moment, it’s just the insoles which are 3D-printed, and Casca told ZDNet it’s in a ‘hybrid phase’ where legacy shoe manufacturing is mixed with 3D printing. The eventual aim for the company is to scale up its retail outlets and have multiple shops equipped with 3D printers that can create both your insoles and shoes on the spot. Braden Parker, one of the co-founders of Casca, commented: “I think to be doing full shoes at that scale, there’s going to be a lot of challenges. But we do believe that within ten years we’ll be able to get to the point where you can see your entire shoe getting made in front of your eyes.” Currently, it takes four hours to print a pair of custom insoles, but the company says it’s working hard to improve the process and make it quicker. A pair of insoles costs $80 (around £60), and the Casca shoes start at $178 (around £140) for a pair of sneakers with a breathable knit. A Black Friday offer means if you purchase a pair of shoes, you get the 3D-printed insoles thrown in for free, and that runs from tomorrow through until (and including) Cyber Monday. Source: 3D-printed shoes are coming – for a perfect fit every time (TechRadar)
  5. 3D printers are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic InOn March 20th, as the coronavirus situation in New York City hurtled toward full-blown crisis, Madiha Choksi was packing a taxi with two Flashforge 3D printers and as much filament as she could fit. Choksi, a librarian specializing in research and educational technology, had received an urgent email the night before from Pierre Elias, a cardiology fellow at NYP-Columbia University Medical Center. Elias desperately needed to produce more protective gear for hospital workers treating COVID-19 patients. He hoped Choksi, the administrator for Columbia University’s 3D printing lab, might be able to help. “The email was very long and really concerning,” Choksi tells The Verge. Normally, she could help. “But I don’t have any printers,” she remembers thinking, “and we were already on day three or four of remote work.” Thankfully, Columbia handed over its printers. “Within hours, they were like, ‘Yeah, of course,’” she says. Choksi got to work in her apartment producing prototype face shields by modifying an open-source design, from a company called Budmen Industries, and 3D printing the plastic visor that holds the shield and rests on the forehead with a piece of foam-like material in between. She used supplies purchased from Staples to slap together about six units she then handed off to Elias a day after receiving the email from the doctor. “He took them straight to the hospital and tested them out,” she says, “and he came back and said, ‘Can we have 1,000 more?’” COVID Maker Response set up its headquarters inside the historic 92nd Street Y community center, thanks to a connection Choksi established with director of operations Christopher Bynum. Photo: COVID Maker Response TheThe US continues to struggle to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, both at a state and federal level. So DIY efforts from academics, hobbyists, manufacturing experts, and professional firms have coalesced around COVID hotspots like New York City to meet the needs of health care workers and others on the front line of the response effort. Some of these initiatives are highly organized, involving partnerships across state lines to source materials and make use of industrial-grade manufacturing facilities. Yet almost all began in the living rooms of people with access to a 3D printer and the ingenuity to put together stopgap measures as existing supply lines struggled to keep up. “In a perfect world, we have coordination across the nation, where we have hotspots and we focus the resources there so the health care workers are protected and patients are protected. And as that dies down, we ship what remains to the next location,” says James Hudspeth, an assistant professor of medicine at Boston University and a COVID response lead at Boston Medical Center. That ideal world is far from reality. Face shields, which Hudspeth says are rarely used in standard medical environments outside surgeries and very select procedures, ended up being second in demand only to face masks, which have also been in short supply. “One way people get infected is by touching surfaces and then touching the face or mask. The shield acts as a reminder you shouldn’t touch your eyes and shouldn’t touch your mouth,” Hudspeth explains. The problem is that shields are only made by a limited number of manufacturers, some domestic but many overseas. And large manufacturers only ship units in batches based on orders from procurement offices of large medical institutions and local and state governments. “We have a central supply, and some of the states have the supply. But there isn’t the capacity to dictate where privately produced or purchased stuff is going,” Hudspeth says. “States are battling each other for these supplies, and every hospital in the country is doing the same thing.” That’s left doctors, nurses, and health care workers across the nation scrambling to get as much PPE as they can, regardless of where it comes from. A face shield of the DIY variety typically consists of a molded or printed plastic semi-circle visor, sometimes called a bracket, that is attached often by glue to a piece of foam that rests on the forehead. The unit then attaches to a long sheet of transparent plastic film that sits just above the face. Everything is held together with a rubber band or a similar elastic device. It’s a simple way to protect someone’s face when interacting with a potentially COVID-positive patient. These shields can be cheaply manufactured, easily sanitized, and then reused. They also aren’t as complicated or bound by regulatory restrictions as, say, respiratory face masks. The lack of regulations surrounding face shields have made them an attractive option for manufacturers large and small looking for a way to pitch in. Apple CEO Tim Cook announced in early April that his company would produce tens of millions of face shields for California health care workers, and Apple’s website now features a tutorial for assembling the units. In the Pacific Northwest, Nike, which has its headquarters just outside Portland, has repurposed materials and manufacturing processes for its running shoes to produce face shields, too. Countless other companies, from Jeff Bezos-funded rocket outfit Blue Origin to Alphabet’s life sciences division Verily, are putting resources toward emergency face shield production. The efforts aren’t stopping at just shields but extending to face masks and even ventilators, too. Razer, the gaming accessory maker, even built its own automated face mask production line in Singapore, equipped with vending machines for dispensing them around the city-state. It doesn’t hurt that out of all the PPE in short supply during COVID-19, face shields are among the easiest to produce — a single unit can be constructed with basic materials by anyone with a 3D printer or even a laser or waterjet cutter. “The nice thing about shields is that they’re easy to produce relatively quickly,” Hudspeth says. “People who have larger 3D printers and a relatively basic piece of plastic that is flexible enough to bend can make a face shield.” NearlyNearly two months after she’d received that first, frantic email, Choksi and her fellow Columbia University librarians Alex Gil and Moacir P. de Sá Pereira now run a DIY volunteer effort called COVID Maker Response. So far, the group has assembled more than 19,000 face shields and distributed units to over 50 institutions, including hospitals, clinics, fire departments, and other groups of first responders. The operation now has an almost factory-like scale and sophistication. They moved from Choksi’s apartment to the 92nd Street Y, a historic community center in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. They have two official manufacturing partners: 3D printing design firm Tangible Creative, out of Newark, New Jersey, and Brooklyn-based 3D printer creator MakerBot. Both firms supply the single 3D-printed visor to which the shield attaches. After receiving the parts in large batches, Choksi has a group of 10 to 12 volunteers, mostly medical students, on four-hour shifts assembling the shields and ferrying them by taxi or car to hospitals. Photo: COVID Maker Response Image: COVID Maker Response Gil and de Sá Pereira, both data librarians and scholars specializing in areas like data visualization and digital mapping, have experience in rapid crisis response through their academic careers. Now, Gil handles incoming face shield requests and spends all day in communication with hospitals. And de Sá Pereira is helping manage the operation’s resources and ensuring they’re using Columbia’s funding as efficiently as possible. The rest of their limited free time is spent helping other groups in the US and overseas start their own DIY operations. “When this whole thing hit, first and foremost in most of our minds was the lack of PPE, which was pretty harrowing in those early days,” says Jason Hill, an emergency room doctor at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center. “In particular, I had a pretty crazy overnight very early on where I had to intubate,” he says, referring to the insertion of a tube into the body, “in the middle of the night without one of the face shields. It was early on and nobody was expecting the onslaught to be that intense at the time, and we burned through our entire stash during the day.” Uptown at the Harlem Hospital Center, Stephen Nicholas, a doctor who came out of retirement to help treat patients during COVID-19, watched as the PPE shortage was fast becoming a crisis of its own. “I cannot tell you how horrible it was,” he says of the situation in late March. His hospital began using a special emergency code, “777 Gold,” over the loudspeaker when a COVID-19 patient had entered respiratory arrest and needed staff attention immediately. The “gold” was to tell hospital workers to wear appropriate PPE due to the heightened risk of infection, but the building was burning through its stash of face masks at an alarming rate. “There were periods every 20 minutes you would hear overhead, ‘777 Gold.’” Nicholas, a former professor at Columbia, heard about Choksi’s efforts through his daughter, a medical student at the school. Gil began helping the doctor coordinate face shield deliveries for his colleagues. “After the first distribution, they were all gone instantly,” Nicholas says. “Second batch was 200. I was out of those in a day and a half. Next was 500, and that lasted about two days.” He says the PPE shortage is no longer as much an issue now that most workers have their own shields they can sanitize and hold onto. Hill, the ER doctor, also found his way to Choksi’s group through word of mouth. He says, as the crisis accelerated, every doctor became acutely aware that acquiring more PPE as fast as possible would be crucial to keeping health care workers safe. COVID Maker Response is now helping supply his hospital with hundreds of these shields every week. “Every few days, I’ll gauge the needs for our particular ERs and ICUs with some colleges and we’ll swing by and get a box of 200 or so of these face shields to drop off,” he says. “When I walk through the ER, the vast majority of people I see are wearing these face shields. At this point it really feels like we have a surplus, which is a wonderful thing to feel.” COVID Maker Response is far from the only operation like this. Choksi and Gil tell me they’ve been in contact with at least three others around New York City alone, and they continue to field messages from others around the country and even overseas that are interested in doing the same. Countless groups have also spun up elsewhere in the US, typically around schools and libraries with the space and resources to set up these makeshift factories. Some, like the Washington State 3D Face Shield Hub and the Illinois PPE Network, have taken similar approaches to coordinating massive, factory-like volunteer efforts that employ individuals in their homes all the way to corporate partners and universities. “Part of our model is not to become the one supplier of face shields,” says Gil. “The idea of this grassroots, distributed model is to help others be able to do what you’re doing so many more distributed teams can aggregate to some kind of impact. This is of course in the absence of industry or city stepping in.” Dr. Stephen Nicholas with fellow doctors, nurses, and staff at Harlem Hospital wearing COVID Maker Response face shields. Photo: COVID Maker Response OneOne hurdle facing the PPE-producing projects is knowing when to shut them down, as more conventional manufacturing methods continue to ramp up. Choksi and Gil say they’re still receiving daily requests for more face shields, and shortages will continue so long as the novel coronavirus continues to overwhelm the US health care system and its hospital and other frontline workers. “I think we’re just going to keep going until the need dies down,” Choksi says. “There’s so many other efforts we’re hearing about, and until we stop receiving requests, our plan is to just keep at it. Full speed ahead until the needs are met.” For Choksi and her partners at COVID Maker Response, the willingness for her volunteers and partners to keep helping has been one of the few glimmers of light in an otherwise awful and often grim situation. She says the maker community and 3D printing in general have shown that they can fill gaps and help vulnerable communities in times of need, using their expertise and ingenuity. From left to right, the core volunteer group has consisted of Jess Ho, Rin Allen, Elisa Mala, Joe de Jonge, Madiha Zahrah Choksi, Rajat Sethi, Matt Car, Victoria Colozzi, and Cullen O Brown. Photo: COVID Maker Response “I think the situation has really shown what 3D printing is capable of, which is not long-term mass production, but filling a need for very rapid production, on-demand and highly customized items,” says Dave Veisz, MakerBot’s vice president of engineering, who now works closely with COVID Maker Response on the volunteer effort. “[COVID-19] has just shown the vulnerability in the global supply chain. The fact that these parts are needed so badly has been eye-opening, as well as the fact that a lot of these parts only come from a handful of factories.” Veisz says that under normal circumstances, you would just injection mold a face shield design and have a factory spin up to mass produce it. “But these things take months,” he says. “It’s been eye-opening to the general public that 3D printing can be used as a stopgap for emergency needs like this and can be used to kickoff production for the item.” Source: 3D printers are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic (The Verge)
  6. Watch 3D printers churn out medical supplies to fight COVID-19 Goodbye prototyping, hello mass production In the past decade, 3D printing has occupied some interesting niches. It’s an invaluable prototyping tool for countless industries and has found regular use in architecture, biotech, prosthetics, and plenty of other disciplines. The rise in consumer-grade printers has also given rise to a vibrant maker community. But for the most part, the technology has remained a niche tool instead of a household name. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospitals around the world faced frightening shortages of medical equipment — essentials like face masks and shields, testing swabs, ventilators, and more. While traditional supply chains scrambled to react, 3D printing outfits large and small have begun chipping away at the short-term demand. Most 3D printers can’t churn out inventory as quickly as other manufacturing methods like injection molding, but they can produce a wide variety of designs without the need for new molds or retooling. By sharing equipment designs and pooling resources, members of the 3D printing community have banded together to become something of a manufacturing hive mind during this pandemic. The Verge spoke with a variety of 3D printing professionals about their abrupt shift to this unique form of “wartime production.” Check out the video above to see what they’ve accomplished. Source: Watch 3D printers churn out medical supplies to fight COVID-19 (The Verge)
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