The reaction of the 3D printing community to the situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic proves that providing help is possible even with a small financial outlay. It is also the time when new applications for 3D printing are being discovered. Zortrax Polish 3D printers have found many applications since the beginning of the pandemic, including in creating personal protective equipment both in Poland and in the world.

The Polish manufacturer of 3D printers will provide protective helmets to the Provincial Children’s Hospital and to the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at the Provincial Specialist Hospital in Olsztyn. The hospital hospitalizes the most severe cases of pregnancy pathology in the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship and accepts extremely difficult delivery. At present, the work of doctors, midwives and nurses is additionally hindered due to the risk of coronavirus. Personal protective equipment used on a daily basis is not adapted to protect against the pathogen.

Thanks to the support of Zortrax, the Children’s Hospital will be equipped with 200 visors. The first batch of 50 has already arrived at the gynecology and obstetrics ward. Helmets are made using, among others materials such as Z-PETG and Z-GLASS, which are adapted to frequent contact with agents commonly used for disinfection. This will allow, while maintaining appropriate security procedures, to be used repeatedly.

At the same time, Zortrax devices are used to implement projects such as Open Breath. It is an initiative of Italian engineers working on creating a fully functional respirator using 3D technology. The company gave the creators of the project one of its most modern devices, the M300 Dual printer and printing materials.

Initially, as part of the project, engineers tried to create a sheet metal device, and some parts were milled from steel. It was not the fastest solution, because the necessary components had to be ordered and then sent to the assembly plant – which lasted even several days.

As it turned out, 3D printing technology enabled faster creation of virtually all elements that were to be milled in the original plan. At first, the parts were made on a private Zortrax M200 printer belonging to one of the engineers. Thanks to the support of Zortrax, it was supplemented with another device – the M300 Dual printer with a large working field, working in LPD Plus technology, and the filaments necessary for printing.

Thanks to the double extrusion function of the M300 Dual printer, it is possible to print simultaneously using two filaments. One is the material from which the necessary element is made, the other is used to build water-soluble support structures. This allows you to create very complex, precise and delicate shapes without the need for subsequent grinding or complicated machining. Because the printed elements are used in the final product, and not only in prototypes – it is very important that they are of the best quality

As you know, the construction of a respirator is quite a challenge, and admitting such a device to use is associated with a number of requirements and restrictions. After consulting the doctors, the engineers decided to start work on a device enabling, among others controlling the pumping speed and regulating the air pressure entering the patient’s lungs. SIMV mode has also been implemented, i.e. synchronized intermittent compulsory ventilation, which is used when the patient is nearing the end of therapy and can be slowly accustomed to self-breathing. Ventilation parameters can be monitored and controlled remotely to save doctors from having to visit each bed in the hospital.

Creating such a complicated device with key functions of classic respirators was a huge challenge. Many representatives of industry or universities got involved in the project. As Open Breath managing officer points out, among others, their contribution to the project is everyday engineers working at the CERN institute in Swiss Geneva. The prototype currently under development is under testing – if it passes it, the project will be made publicly available for free.

Simone Iannucci, one of the founders of Open Breath, emphasizes that the priority is to protect medical personnel at all costs. If you run out of doctors and nurses, having even the most respirators is pointless. Without qualified people, no equipment will fulfill its role.

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