AM in the time of COVID-19Medical

Formlabs to 3D print 3,000 ventilator adapters a day with FDA approval

3D printed adapter converts BiPAP machines into mechanical ventilators

3D printing company Formlabs has not been idle since the novel coronavirus was declared a pandemic. The company has used its resources to support COVID-19 relief efforts with face shields, nasal swabs and more. Most recently, Formlabs revealed it has been granted emergency use authorization by the FDA to 3D print adapters which can convert BiPAP machines into much-needed ventilator systems. The company says it has the capacity to produce up to 3,000 3D printed adapters a day, which can be deployed to hospitals treating critically ill COVID-19 patients.

The 3D printed BiPaP adapters were designed by Northwell Health, the largest healthcare provider in New York, and can be used to convert BiPAP machines (commonly used for treating sleep apnea) into functional invasive mechanical ventilator systems. The adapter consists of a small T-shaped part, which can be made from plastic and 3D printed.

Formlabs FDA ventilator adapters
Array of 3D printed adapters (Photo: Formlabs)

Formlabs is the first 3D printing company to receive FDA emergency approval to manufacture the ventilator adapters, and will ramp up production at its FDA-registered headquarters in Somerville, MA. The company says it will be producing the adapters using 150 3D printers at its facility (for a total of about 3,000 parts per day) and will subsequently distribute them to hospitals and government systems across the country.

“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA had only authorized a handful of EUAs over a 30 year period,” said Max Lobovsky, CEO and Co-Founder of Formlabs. “Formlabs’ EUA for BiPAP adapters signifies the need for these components and 3D printings’ unique ability to fill that need. 3D printing enables rapid iteration and prototyping of new, innovative medical equipment, while expediting the production process, shortening supply chains, and allowing for localized manufacturing. Hospitals around the country can also use Formlabs’ printers to create these adapters locally under their own practice of medicine, meaning printing the adapters at scale in the hardest-hit areas is as easy as uploading a design and pressing print.”

Formlabs FDA ventilator adapters
3D printed T piece adapter (Photo: Northwell health)

Northwell Health, the medical provider behind the life-saving adapter, has worked in collaboration with Formlabs since 2018. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the companies have not only made advances with the 3D printed adapter, but have also come up with a design for a 3D printed nasal test swab, which can be mass produced. The 3D printed BiPAP adapters have already been implemented in New York City, where the COVID-19 outbreak has been most severe to treat patients in ICU.

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Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault is a Montreal-based content writer and editor with five years of experience covering the additive manufacturing world. She has a particular interest in amplifying the voices of women working within the industry and is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM sector. Tess holds a master's degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

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