Since the rapid spread of the new crown pneumonia epidemic around the world, almost all countries and regions have faced a shortage of personal protective equipment including masks, protective clothing, goggles, and other medical equipment. As a technological powerhouse, the United States, Germany and other countries have used 3D Printing technology to fill the related demand gaps. This not only opens a new way for the production of medical supplies under the epidemic, but also allows companies to see the potential of 3D Printing.

United States: Medical High Drives Low Walks3D printing enthusiasts and companies located across the United States have designed and printed medical supplies including mask accessories. In Maryland, Todd Blatt, who owns a small business, transformed his studio into a mask factory and produced more than 1,200 mask accessories through a 3D printer. Similar to the case of masks, 3D printed cotton swabs and swabs have also appeared in large numbers in the United States. The company named Northwell Health now uses 3D printers to make 5,000 swabs for hospitals every day, and plans to expand to 7,500 to 8,000 per day. Since March 27, 7 3D printed medical devices have been reviewed for clinical use. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first 3D printing mask project in early April. The approved project is a 3D printed mask designed and manufactured by a team of the United States Veterans Health Administration (VHA), named “Stopgap”. The mask is easy to disinfect and includes a reusable filter. The FDA stated on its official website that when conventional products are difficult to obtain, some agencies are considering printing or purchasing 3D printing equipment to solve the problem. The FDA is working closely with the government, related industries, and medical institutions on this and broader public health emergencies. 3D printing technology seems to have found broad application prospects overnight, but this technology is still unable to obtain comprehensive and extensive recommendations in the medical field. According to the published instructions, 3D masks approved by the FDA cannot replace traditional professional-grade protective masks approved for personal protection (such as N95 or KN95 masks). The US media generally believe that the rapid approval of 3D printing masks is partly due to the lack of key personal protective equipment on the front line caused by the delays in the global supply chain, rather than the products that have met the relevant technical requirements. The FDA stated on its official website that 3D printed personal protective equipment may provide a physical barrier, but it is unlikely to provide the same liquid barrier and air filtration level as FDA-approved surgical masks and N95 masks. Where possible, it is possible to use traditional techniques. Would be more helpful. Therefore, as related personal protective equipment and medical facilities are constantly being replenished in American hospitals, the initial shortage is gradually alleviated. The practice and discussion of the application of 3D printing technology in the medical field may gradually due to its production cost and production efficiency. As well as product standard issues, it gradually returned to calm.

Germany: “Global production” becomes “local production”“3D printing realizes the dream of corporate transformation!” The German “Business Daily” reported on the 25th that due to the spread of the epidemic, some German companies have rapidly transformed the production of scarce medical products with cutting-edge 3D printing equipment. Volkswagen is one of the companies in transition. The group is using 3D printers that originally produced plastic parts and prototypes to produce spare parts for ventilators or other medical equipment accessories. As one of the world’s largest medical equipment manufacturers, more than 100 3D printers of Siemens’ European and American branches have also been put into such production. Thyssen-Krupp Group, Germany’s largest steel company, is also using 3D printers to produce medical equipment parts. In fact, companies also encounter problems when using 3D printing technology to cross-border medical supplies. German economist Kasper told the Global Times reporter that technically speaking, many companies use 3D printing to produce medical equipment parts without any problems. However, this requires the approval of the medical device manufacturer. For example, because Siemens has technology patents for some medical devices, automakers cannot produce these devices without the company’s license. Companies such as Siemens are often unwilling to cooperate because they are worried about the leakage of core secrets, especially high-end products such as ventilators. However, Casper believes that the epidemic crisis is having a long-term impact on 3D printing. Now, the production of enterprise products is heavily dependent on the global supply chain and requires a series of equipment. And 3D printing can reduce many links, even in one step, and can also reduce the logistics burden. 3D printing technology is turning “global production” into “local production”. A study published by the German Federal Information and Communication and New Media Industry Association (BITKOM) last year showed that nearly 80% of the interviewed companies believe that 3D printing technology will have a profound impact on business models and value chains. Casper said that the epidemic is a test of 3D printing technology, allowing companies to see its huge potential.

UAE: demand in multiple sectorsWhether it is a doctor, a policeman or a sanitation worker, the masks worn by the UAE’s front-line anti-epidemic personnel recorded by the camera often fit closely to the face. The UAE Gulf News Network revealed on the 25th that this was due to the 3D printed masks that were put into production in Dubai a few days ago. Compared with ordinary masks, 3D printed masks have two major differences: one is more ergonomic, with stronger facial fit and lighter weight; the other is the addition of a replaceable outer layer and a special transparent layer. At present, only a few thousand of this type of mask have been produced, and priority is given to Dubai police and medical workers who are in close contact with patients. “In the field of emergency, the UAE and other Gulf oil-producing countries need 3D printing the most.” Zhang Qiang, CEO of Azhongzhimen (Beijing) Business Co., Ltd., told the Global Times reporter that in recent years, due to the sharp fluctuations in crude oil prices, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other countries have gradually proposed the development of a certain scale of manufacturing. For countries with almost zero foundations, 3D printing does not require high technical accumulation and does not require traditional molds. It is the best choice for overtaking in corners and meeting urgent needs for self-use. Take road emergency rescue as an example. Most of the land in the Gulf countries is desert, and vehicle maintenance outlets cannot achieve full coverage. Dealing with major faults is often delayed due to lack of key components.

The UAE government has always encouraged 3D printers to join the rescue team, but it has not been fully promoted because of the high cost and the supply of printing materials. “However, as risk awareness is strengthened due to the epidemic, the future prospects are worth looking forward to.” The Dubai City Government Office Building, which was completed not long ago, is currently the world’s largest 3D printed building, and this was only released by the Dubai government as early as 2016. Part of the “3D printing strategy”. In 2019, 2% of every new building in Dubai was built with 3D printing technology, and the Dubai Municipal Government plans to increase this proportion to 25% by 2025. Hellen Lombis, R&D manager of Swiss building materials company Lafarge Holcim, told the Global Times reporter that 3D printed buildings are not only low-cost, but also easy to replicate, which can meet large-scale housing needs in the future. The combination of 3D printing and architecture has made the inherent advantages of Chinese enterprises in the field of infrastructure more obvious. In addition to the above-mentioned fields, the demand from educational and scientific research institutions is also worth paying attention to. Zhang Qiang said that in 2019, the UAE spent only 10.1 billion dirhams (1 dirham equals 1.93 yuan) on education from the national budget. In recent years, creative design courses based on 3D printing technology have been gradually promoted in UAE primary and secondary schools, and the demand for small 3D printers is increasing day by day. At the same time, the country’s well-funded top scientific research institutions also have a keen interest in 3D printing research.  

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