A patient who can’t breathe on his own or the act of trying to breath is posing a great physical challenge to his system will find great relief if their respiration will be assisted by a ventilator machine. These machines are pieces of medical equipment, a support device that is primarily designed to help someone respirewhen their bodies are too frail to do it due to an illness or a medical condition.
The modern design of ventilators nowadays comes with a dedicated tube and a matching pump machine. Healthcare providers slide them into a patient’s windpipe to help control and manage the flow of air to their lungs, hence, easing up their breathing.
For critically ill COVID-19 patients, their bodies will need this assistive device because it will help them an awful lot in alleviating the strain on their bodies when respiring. If community hospitals and healthcare institutions that have been designated to handle COVID-19 cases are brimming with patients, it will put great pressure on them in this area. As of this writing, there is an overwhelming demand for ventilators in many hospitals from around the globe.
Healthcare insiders are estimating that the US does have around 170,000 available ventilators. But there is an emerging alarm here because the American Hospital Association projects that the increasing number of COVID-19 patients will surge and will continue to escalate to around 960,000. Thus, slackening the spread of this virus is of paramount importance to ensure that patients will not be requiring medical treatment and attention simultaneously.
Nevertheless, in light of the recent events, experts are seeing that containing the virus to a manageable level is harder than earlier anticipated. Thus, scaling up the production of ventilators is fast becoming a necessity.
This brings us to this important question now, are the production methods we currently use can still accommodate our needs and pace up with the surging demands for ventilators or is it high time that we consider also the use of 3D printing machines for this purpose?
The seasoned experts in the 3D printing sphere are heeding the cry for help of the medical and health care communities. Right now, the 3D printing sector is mobilized and keen to offer some practical solutions they are good at.
Aside from ventilating machines, we also have a depleting supply for other essential equipment in many hospitals such as face masks and similar protective gear. If the dwindling supplies of PPEs or personal protective equipment will continue, it will put our medical professionals and other frontliners at great risk. Seriously, we can’t afford to be in that kind of situation because so much will be at stake by then. And the chance of us surmounting that dismal scenario is very slim.
Making use of a 3D printing machine to produce a ventilator is a task that is likely to pose a greater set of challenges than when you 3D print a mask or a goggle. The country that successfully pioneered in the production of 3D printed emergency ventilators is Spain.
The first ever 3D printed ventilator of Spain was scrutinized by top medical experts of the country, the reason why they gave it their seal of approval. The project is aimed to help various hospitals and healthcare facilities in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Enhancing the Production of 3D Printed Medical Equipment
In our situation now, this is one of the strongest points of 3D printing, sometimes referred to as additive manufacturing. In a matter of 30 minutes to an hour or so, manufacturing companies can produce a piece of equipment that is badly, urgently needed.
This means to say that if we have a looming crisis for medical equipment like ventilators, alternative production methods and 3D printing can be taken advantage of. But, things will take a different turn when it comes to scaling up production.
In Italy, some companies are tapped to 3D print hundreds of scores of valves that are intended for use in respiratory intensive care units. These valves are essential components of respiration systems because they link the machine to the oxygen mask itself. So it would be good if we produce them in great quantities to meet the growing demand for it due to the pandemic.
The CEO for an Italian design company that is responsible for the creation of the digital files for these valves, Cristian Fracassi, explained further that their quick action is in following this characteristic of 3D printing that allows you to quickly run a small scale test production but would be a seeming impossibility if you will try it on an industrial scale.