Printing for Protection: How 3D Printing is Shifting the Tide Against COVID-19

This post originally appeared on the Louisiana Technology Park blog.

As COVID-19 sweeps across the nation, doctors, nurses and other hospital employees are scrambling to treat patients while protecting their own safety and limiting viral spread. The demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) like face shields, masks, gloves and aprons is 20 times higher than normal, but large-scale manufacturing has been unable to keep up with ever-increasing demands. 

Medical professionals are having to reuse or share equipment — an unfortunate necessity that puts hospital employees, patients and the public at further risk.

When Dane Caro heard how dire the PPE situation was he, like so many others in the community, knew that he had to do something. Here’s how homegrown efforts are having a big impact on the local community.

Taking the Initiative to Serve

Caro, a programmer and founder of Anvil 3D, knows his way around 3D printers. He’s prototyped many for his company and enjoyed using them to build items for his four-year-old daughter — until he became aware of a greater need. “My wife, a doctor at Baton Rouge General, told me how bad the PPE situation was there,” Caro says. “I thought this was a good time to use the equipment I have to help out.”

Caro’s first design files were for N95 masks that could be shaped to the wearer’s face using warm water. These were a more comfortable option, but healthcare professionals didn’t always have time to shape them, so Caro pivoted to developing face shields. After experimenting, he settled on a lightweight, low-cost design.

Soon the Louisiana Technology Park got involved by offering their 3D printer, supplying the filaments needed to make the shields, and getting the word out to the larger community. “We knew we wanted to get the community involved,” Caro says. More local organizations with 3D printers offered to help, and Caro and his team of printers began taking requests from local healthcare and frontline organizations.

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