On the college campus, 3D printers have become emergency manufacturers of masks, visors and other protective equipment as hospitals around the world face bottlenecks. At Cornell University, the production of visors began shortly after Kirsten Petersen, an associate professor in the department of electrical engineering and information technology at the university, received an urgent email asking for donations for 3D printed personal protective equipment (PPE) for the Weill Cornell Medical Center, the university's medical school, was asked to open in New York City.
"We used 3D printers to address everyone we knew and we grabbed all the 3D printers we could (from campus) …" says Petersen on the phone. In the sixty hours we've worked on it, we've multiplied from three volunteers to more than fifty volunteers, from five 3D printers to 106 3D printers. "
Sighting parts are printed as part of the Cornell project
Sabin Lab / AAP Cornell
Production quickly escalated after the school's college of architecture, art and planning, which houses many of the university's 3D printers, got involved, Peterson says. In an email to AAP students on Wednesday morning, deputy dean Jenny Sabin announced that the college would provide printers and resources, and asked those with 3D printers at home and additional filaments from the semester to spare their time Donate and materials to make the visors, citing an estimated need of 50,000 visors per day in New York City.
As a precaution against breath droplets that transmit the virus, front-line PSA treatments have been integrated. The shields made by the Cornell Faculty and her students consist of a plastic visor that is worn over the forehead and a film made of disposable polyethylene that Sabin and her team have laser-cut in the university's digital manufacturing laboratory.
Assembled face shields at Cornell.
Kurt Brosnan and Tyler Williams AAP Cornell / Jenny Sabin
Many students, who were in the strange limbo of a closed campus and a university that went online, volunteered to print the visor pieces from home.
For Jesus Luna, a doctoral student in the architecture department who collected materials from his fellow students, 3D printing is a small way to combat the feeling of helplessness caused by the pandemic: “These are difficult times that we should all try to help in every possible way. It seems that our area (architecture) is not useful at this time of crisis. That is why it seems necessary to do as little as possible. "
"I printed 15 visors today," says Manying Chen, a fifth-year architecture student. "Each takes about 70 minutes. I started when I wake up. It's pretty easy." Chen, who lives in Beijing, is one of many international students who have stayed in Ithaca and are unable to return to their home countries after the campus is closed.
The speed at which people around the world could print visors is based on the open source ethos of 3D printing, where manufacturers can easily collaborate and edit 3D files. However, this accessibility has raised some concerns about whether this informal PPE supply chain will produce good quality products and ensure the safety of healthcare workers.
"Frankly, we can't control what people print."
According to Petersen, the visors printed by the Cornell Faculty and the students come from a 3D model file that has been approved by Weill's doctors. The file itself, which was designed and published by 3Dverkstan, a Swedish 3D printing consultancy, has been downloaded over 10,000 times and is used in over 20 countries, says Erik Cederberg, one of the designers behind the visor.
"Quality control is a challenge," said Cederberg, emphasizing that his design is a temporary solution, to The Verge. They give it a try and get feedback. And we actually made some changes based on this feedback before we launched the design. Frankly, we can't control what people print. But we made the model as simple as possible, so it is very difficult to make mistakes. ”
"Human power has really come"
Petersen agrees that 3D printed PPE is not a long-term replacement. "We can all see that this is a terrible way of making visors. There are so many more efficient ways to do it." But I think like everyone else we do everything we can and every single visor counts. "
By March 27, the group had donated and delivered nearly 500 visors to healthcare workers in New York City. They estimate that with increasing numbers and experience, volunteers can make more than 1,000 masks a day. Sabin, who is working to bring visor production to other universities, is hopeful and encourages those who have the means to join the initiative: “People's power has really come. A printer can't do much, but this democratic manufacturing process, which brings together people from different disciplines in an extremely difficult situation, makes it clear what can be done when people work together on a massive scale. "