3D Printing

World's largest 3D printing facility gears up to help protect doctors

World's largest 3D printing fa...
The 3D-printed face shield will offer doctors protection from sneezing or coughing patients
The 3D-printed face shield will offer doctors protection from sneezing or coughing patients
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Prusa Research is the world’s largest 3D printing factory located in Prague, Czech Republic
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Prusa Research is the world’s largest 3D printing factory located in Prague, Czech Republic
Prusa Research team has turned its focus on creating protective gear and has come up with a 3D-printed protective face shield
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Prusa Research team has turned its focus on creating protective gear and has come up with a 3D-printed protective face shield
The Prusa Research team powered through multiple prototypes in just three days, before receiving the approval from the Czech Ministry of Health to test two prototypes further for full verification
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The Prusa Research team powered through multiple prototypes in just three days, before receiving the approval from the Czech Ministry of Health to test two prototypes further for full verification
The 3D-printed face shield will offer doctors protection from sneezing or coughing patients
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The 3D-printed face shield will offer doctors protection from sneezing or coughing patients
Prusa Research is committed to donating 10,000 units to the Czech Ministry of Health over the coming weeks
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Prusa Research is committed to donating 10,000 units to the Czech Ministry of Health over the coming weeks
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Founder of Prusa Research, the world’s largest 3D printing factory located in Prague, Josef Prusa has spoken about how the company is doing everything it can to aid the production of much needed medical supplies during the COVID-19 crisis. While Prusa Research is committed to the production of face shields, the experience has also taught the company a lot about the current limitations of 3D printing and where it could be improved.

“We here at Prusa Research are also looking for ways to help,” says Josef Prusa. "We have been doing a lot of research and I want to address some of my concerns about printed respirators first. I don’t intend to hamper the vibe we have now, not by a long shot, but printing respirators might not be the best idea at this time. Let me explain. None of the designs available right now have been tested to ensure they provide the protections needed, at least none of the ones I am aware of. To help with this, we have collected as many designs as we could find, and are working with experts to see if we can verify which ones really work.”

Prusa Research team has turned its focus on creating protective gear and has come up with a 3D-printed protective face shield
Prusa Research team has turned its focus on creating protective gear and has come up with a 3D-printed protective face shield

The main reasons for Prusa's doubts around producing 3D-printed respirator parts concern the effectiveness of sealing; the filter itself; the filter to the mask; how the mask attaches to the face; and the porosity of the printed parts. According to Prusa all five elements must be perfect.

“It all must be perfect,” states Prusa. "Most of us print rigid materials that are hard to make compliant for seals. Even if we can get a good seal, will it remain functional eg. even when the wearer talks? The wearer will have the mask on their face, a humid and warm place, a perfect breeding ground for germs. We won’t be able to sterilize these masks effectively so we might be causing even more problems. And the virus reportedly survives for over 48 hours on the plastics (or even 90 hours, according to some other studies) ... If you absolutely insist on printing a mask now, treat it like it is a basic surgical mask and not as a true respirator with all the protections they provide.”

Taking on board these limitations, the Prusa Research team has turned its focus to creating other protective gear and has come up with a 3D-printed protective face shield. The face shield will offer doctors protection from sneezing or coughing patients and will help meet demand at many hospitals and clinics. The team powered through multiple prototypes in just three days, before receiving the approval from the Czech Ministry of Health to test two prototypes further for full verification.

“We were notified on Facebook that doctors are in great need of face shields and that there is already a great face shield design available online,” says Prusa. “We took it as a starting point and decided that we would adjust it for easier and faster 3D printing – eg. there shouldn’t be any supports required and we should fit as many of them onto a single print sheet as possible.”

Prusa Research is committed to donating 10,000 units to the Czech Ministry of Health over the coming weeks
Prusa Research is committed to donating 10,000 units to the Czech Ministry of Health over the coming weeks

Once the prototype is fully verified and approved for medical use, one fifth of Prusa's 3D printers will be dedicated to printing these face shields, which allows the company to produce 800 items per day. In theory Prusa Research could produce up to 4,000 shields per day at full capacity. The cost of materials needed per shield is less than US$1 and the team is committed to donating 10,000 units to the Czech Ministry of Health over the coming weeks.

“If we need we can add more 3D printers to the production,” says Prusa. "After all, we are world record holders with 1,096 concurrently printing 3D printers, so capacity shouldn’t be a problem."

Prusa Research is offering its face shield design free of charge (pending verification) to other 3D printing facilities wanting to go into production for their local communities. However, Prusa does highlight the necessity to adhere to stringent health and safety protocols, such the sterilization of these shields and parts. For example, in order to ensure sterilization, the plastic used is heated up to a high temperature during the printing process. Workers must use a fresh pair of gloves and surgical mask before removing the printed parts and placing them immediately into a new sealable bag.

Once Prusa Research has accomplished its final modifications and received the green light for its face shield, the plant has its sights on next creating protective goggles for doctors and hospital staff.

Source: Prusa Printing

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7 comments
f8lee
While this all sounds nifty and makes me gooey all over, does it make sense to use AM to mass produce something as disposable as face masks? I mean, how long would the tooling of dies take to have the same kinds of parts injected molded, and once that's done, how many thousands of masks could be pressed per hour? I get that they're trying to do something, but this is more like a PR thing than something that will actually make a real difference.
aschmitt
Will Prusa be making the .stl or .obj file(s) available ... ??? Thanks, great article about a wonderful company
ljaques
Bravo, Prusa. You are doing something RIGHT NOW to address IMMEDIATE NEEDS while others gear up to do so. Thank you for doing this! A local tattoo artist donated her entire supply of masks and nitrile gloves to the local hospital during this crisis. Individuals and companies CAN and DO make a difference!
Scott Karch
Yes.. please post the .stl file and I'll be able to help a little bit.
ChairmanLMAO
I'm feelling like 3d printing is the technological breakthrough we needed to colonize the other planets. Seeing how Prusa is able to mobilize during a crisis gives me faith that they are the forward thinkers that might make it feasible in my lifetime. Hopefully, Elon Musk won't charge too much to store their printer in the toolbox for the trip to Mars. Doges, mount up!!!
Daishi
Part of why we are locking down the entire world is because hospitals have a shortage of supplies, staffing, capacity, and ventilators. If this is important enough to put the entire world on lock down I'm amazed more companies aren't being mobilized to pitch in like this. There is a lot that could be done that's not being done. None of the hospitals here (US) are standing up temporary overflow buildings yet for instance. SpaceX decided to make ventilators but I don't think anyone asked them to do it and other manufacturing companies have idled their employees when they could be doing the same thing. We could be in lock-down/quarantine for over a year. If you can do military basic training in 2 months you could give out of work people a specialized crash course in nursing this illness in a month or 2 to help the many sick that we don't have enough staffing to deal with. We are already about 5 months into this and it's only the beginning.
foxpup
Will there be ANY orange plastic left in the world??!! I guess I won't be 3d printing any foxes any time soon. ;-) - Way to go Mr. Prusa!!