Pittsburghers are 3D printing medical equipment — hospitals aren’t biting yet, but individual doctors are – By Jeremy Reynolds (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) / March 28 2020
The Food and Drug Administration has updated its guidelines about what 3D-printed gear is most effective
Across the country, hospitals are reporting severe shortages of medical masks and equipment in the fight against COVID-19. Suppliers are stepping up efforts to increase production, but this is a solution that will take months to materialize.
Enter the makers.
Around the globe, groups of makers — hobbyists that exist in the intersection of technology and the DIY movement — have begun making face shields and masks using 3D- printing technology. A 3D printer layers molten plastic to sculpt constructs, working from computer designs. These printers are capable of molding car parts, prosthetic limbs, musical instruments and more.
In Pittsburgh, a loose-knit community of makers and individuals have begun producing hundreds of face shields and masks, then donating them directly to hospitals and health care professionals. It’s a small effort that’s rapidly gaining steam.
The hobbyists are attempting to go through formal hospital channels to determine whether their creations are medically sound. To date, neither Allegheny Health Network nor UPMC have been able to respond with a formal assessment, even though dozens of individual doctors and nurses have contacted the makers to request supplies.
“3D printing is absolutely not the right way to do this,” said Ryan Priore, 40, of Pine, a furloughed spectroscopist. He described the equipment in his basement as a jungle gym for nerds.
A UPMC spokesperson wrote in an email that “3d printing is being explored for face shields. No determination has been made but it is being evaluated for recommendations and prototypes.” AHN deferred comment on the printed equipment to the Allegheny Health Department, which said in an email that the equipment hadn’t come across its radar yet.