With the Coronavirus crisis getting progressively worse, certain medical items are in high demand: namely, masks. The situation is so bad that some actual medical installations don’t have the masks they need in the midst of this tenable situation. Lots of providers are struggling to restock these all-important masks, but in the meantime, it seems that companies like HP will step up to the plate: yes, the same HP that makes printers.
HP and various other companies are looking at ways they can use 3D printers to help bridge the supply gap. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean you’ll be able to print out your own masks if you happen to own a 3D printer. That’s because the printer won’t be able to make an entire mask, but rather some of the smaller parts a useful medical mask needs, such as filters, valves and caps. HP is even looking into creating entirely new mask parts, such as a plastic door handle adapters which enable easy elbow opening to prevent further spread of the virus.”
The printer company also explained their ultimate goal. “We will make available any HP proprietary design files for these parts so they can be produced anywhere in the world and are also helping end-customers bridge potential supply chain interruptions by expanding distributed print-on-demand capabilities.”
Companies like SmileDirectClub are also using their manufacturing facilities and plastic supply to make medical products like face shields and respirator valves. Even people on social media have been sharing plans and blueprints for customizing their own masks and build ventilators using their 3D printers. Needless to say, it’s not the source of supply salvation too many people were expecting.
Taking all of this into account though: as said previously you won’t be able to just print your own mask at home, especially since you would probably need specialized equipment in order to do so. On top of that no one knows how well an all plastic mask would even work in regards to preventing the spread of a virus.
That said it raises some interesting questions regarding how 3D printers could be used in the future. With how recent the technology is, few people really understand the true potential that 3D printers could have in providing valuable products to society. Granted, they surely won’t be able to do everything, and there are undoubtedly some things that 3D printers just won’t be the right choice for, but the potential is still immense. It’s just unfortunate that it can’t do a little more in regards to defeating the Coronavirus.
Even so, it’s heartening to know that, in the midst of all this hardship caused by a virus, even companies that make printers are looking to do their part and support humanity as a whole in an effort to help however they can. With things as dire as they are now, such good news is more than welcome, and certainly better than the alternative.