The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many companies to change their current strategies and quickly adapt to the changing business conditions from month to month. This also applies to the 3D printing industry, where companies that produce 3D printers on a daily basis have made a smaller or larger turn by entering the production of medical equipment or accessories supporting medical staff in the daily fight against the virus. So far, we have devoted a lot of space to, for example, PRUSA Research, which initiated the global campaign of 3D printing of protective shields, or Photocentric, which also prints face shield components and ventilator parts on large-format 3D printers. Today, Zortrax, which was also actively involved in the production of medical equipment, announced the launch of its own line for the production of protective masks.
What is the relation between the production of protective masks and the production of industrial 3D printers? We do not know? We know, however, that the final effect looks at least intriguing. According to Zortrax, the production line is capable of producing 2 masks per second, which is 500 units in less than 10 minutes. They are not – and at the moment they are not intended to be certified and intended for use in conditions of direct contact with sick patients. As emphasized by Zortrax – “those with the appropriate certificate are currently difficult to obtain, therefore medical personnel only use them in high-risk situations. Otherwise, he uses standard face shields, like everyone else.
For the production of the line, modules and components printed on the manufacturer’s 3D printers were used – red elements in FFF / LPD technology on Zortrax M200 and M300 3D printers made of Z-HIPS material, while yellow elements on photopolymer Zortrax Inkspire made of light-curing resin.
The production of masks begins with feeding three types of material to a special machine. When folded, these materials form a three-layer fabric, which can serve as a mouth and nose cover. At the same time, this system can weave a wire into the material, which will allow the mask to better fit the face. Then the fabric is transported to the end of the line where individual masks are cut. At the end of the process, the machine attaches strings to the material, which, once attached to the ears, allow the mask to be held in the right place.
Zortrax has no ambition to compete with global manufacturers of protective masks:
The production line we have created is a pilot project. Can produce 2 masks per second. As impressive as this sounds, these are not the opportunities that large medical equipment factories achieve. However, competition with them was not our goal. We want to support people fighting the pandemic when it is most needed. Medical workers have enough work to do in these difficult times and should not be faced with a shortage of basic protective equipment. We are glad that our technology can help them at least to a small extent.
Regardless of the economic and business sense of the project, one thing can be said beyond doubt – it is certainly a better form of aid than the production of protective helmets, the effectiveness of which has been heavily questioned for some time – and certainly more than the absurd “3D printer respirators” whose real the usefulness was described in detail in April this year.