What Possible Risks May Be Involved with the Use of 3D Printing Machines to Make PPEs?

While the number of hospitalizations due to the COVID-19 in many different countries continue to escalate, the growing paucity for personal protective equipment or PPEs is fast becoming a major concern for many health care workers. Various health care institutions, hospitals, and organizations around the country have been scrambling in their efforts to gather and distribute unused face masks to various local hospitals. 

COVID-19

In the race to help a layer of security to protect patients, nurses, and doctors, some sectors are making suggestions that we take advantage of 3D printing machines in producing facial masks. But in a recent memo from the MIT faculty, they detailed the possible risks that are associated with the use of 3-dimensional printing in the production of PPEs and many other COVID-19 related equipment and medical devices.  

Associated Risks with 3D Printing Machines for PPE Production

The use of 3-dimensional printing in the production of PPEs will give us a sense of hope that it will help resolve our deficiency in this area. But, the truth here is, this is one of the biggest risks about it.  

Many sectors seriously want to be of help and are convinced that additive manufacturing will aid us to address the escalating demand for PPEs and medical devices in many hospitals. But the production of certain types of PPEs, like facial masks, for example, is way more complicated than what people usually think. Simply put, the use of 3D printed masks may put us in harm’s way more than good.  

With respect to their application in a clinical setting, it is quite normal for some 3D printed parts to come with a handful of inherent issues. A typical example of which will involve sterilization, particularly the material compatibility of the sterilization techniques currently used in many hospitals as well as the use of some materials where there is no certainty how they would possibly interact with other devices, chemicals, including contact with care providers and patients.  

The serious problem we have right now is not the facial masks per se, but the filter media used in their production, which has a major role to play in their level of efficacy. It looks a lot like a piece of simple cloth, but the way it is made that makes the difference. A specific process is used for its production, in order for it to achieve a specific end state. This end state is practically designed and engineered to collect small particles. 

They can also come as electrostatically charged which will cause it to catch small particles and they will remain stuck to the fibers. Such materials will work great wonders for clinical applications, and with the current COVID-19 pandemic we have an urgent need for this now. 

The tendency of the people nowadays is to focus on the masks themselves, but they are overlooking the real issue which is the filter media used in them. The absence of a good filter media in facial masks is not likely to make much of a difference as far as protecting people is concerned with the further spread of novel coronavirus.