The NIH 3D Print Exchange by the U.S.’ National Institutes of Health is an important resource in the medical sector, providing 3D printable models for a range of biomedical applications. While the platform has primarily functioned as a repository for anatomical models, the NIH 3D Print Exchange now also hosts an important collection of 3D printable files for COVID-19 response.
The NIH 3D Print Exchange COVID-19 Supply Chain Response is a collection of designs curated by NIH/NIAID in collaboration with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Veterans Healthcare Administration (VHA) and America Makes. The designs include personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as other medical devices that are in high-demand and short supply in this time of crisis.
Crucially, the collection features a number of 3D printable designs which have been reviewed for clinical use, such as a stopgap surgical face mask (SFM), a mask comfort strap, a surgical mask tension release band, and several face shields, including Stratasys’ design. The MASSARD 3D printed door handle has been optimized for community use.
The repository also clearly identifies which designs are currently in progress or are under review and which 3D printable models have safety implications. The latter category consists of ventilator splitters and connectors, emergency ventilator designs and other respiratory devices. New designs can be submitted here to be reviewed by the Veterans Health Administration. Prototypes that meet standards will be labeled as “clinically reviewed.”
Of course, even the reviewed 3D printable models must be made according to prescribed specifications in order to ensure they meet quality requirements. As the NIH says, “While many can be printed with a 3D printer at home or your local Maker space, the NIH, FDA, VA, America Makes, and the contributing creators cannot ensure the quality, safety, and efficacy of these designs when manufactured without proper quality controls and processes.”
As supplies for critical PPE become increasingly strained, businesses and individuals are stepping up to assist in the production of face masks, hospital gowns, face shields and other protective equipment. Over the past month or so, 3D printing has become an important technology in the localized and on-demand production of some of these products. The NIH’s dedicated 3D Print Exchange not only demonstrates the importance of 3D printing and the 3D printing industry in these difficult times but also helps to connect those with 3D printing resources to healthcare providers in need of equipment.
Additional resources about additive manufacturing and COVID-19 can be found on our very own AM for COVID-19 Forum.