3D printing used to make millions of medical supplies during pandemic, FDA report finds


Nontraditional manufacturers have used 3D printing to deliver millions of medical supplies, such as masks, face shields and other medical devices, over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, helping to reduce supply shortages, according to a report released by the FDA.

The report, released July 9 and conducted by America Makes — a public-private partnership of industry groups that aim to increase the use of 3D print manufacturing — details the role 3D printing has played in addressing pandemic-related supply challenges and looks at how it may be used in future public health emergencies. It was funded by the FDA. 

The study found that 3D printing was used to deliver about 38 million face shield parts, 12 million nasal swabs, 2.5 million ear savers, 241,000 mask parts and 116,000 ventilator parts from Feb. 15 to July 15, 2020. 

"The collaboration of these [nontraditional producers] around the country enabled hospitals to continue testing for COVID-19 and maintain operations; enabled healthcare workers to better protect themselves using [3D-printed] face shields; provided healthcare personnel with relief from the tension of N95 respirators worn endlessly through ear savers and other quality-of-life improvement products," the report states.

The report also found that "tremendous latent capacity exists within the U.S. to quickly pivot and respond to a national crisis with [3D printing]."

The authors suggested that formal efforts be taken to develop infrastructure to scale up 3D printing to address future crises. 

Read the full report here


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