Carbon 3D Printed Nasopharyngeal Swabs By The Million
Carbon continues to make headway in the 3D printing fight against the spread of pandemic.
We’ve seen other 3D printing teams, unicorn and maker alike, ramping up their efforts to put technology to use to provide much-needed medical supplies. With so many testing supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages the world over, quick, accurate, effective response is critical to save lives.
Many individuals in outbreak areas are unable to be diagnosed with — or ruled out from having been infected with — novel coronavirus. Much of that is due to the “novel” in the name; this is a new strain of a coronavirus, and COVID-19 is very much its own disease.
While efforts are in motion to develop effective treatments, cures, and a vaccine for COVID-19, at the earlier end is diagnosis. Because this is a new strain, new testing methods tuned in to this particular virus must be developed.
Such tests have been in quite short supply, and at least in my area an individual is not eligible to be tested unless they have travelled in the last 14 days, been in contact with someone who has travelled in the last 14 days, or been in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19. These stipulations between potential patient and diagnosis come down to a simple fact: there aren’t enough tests available.
The test is carried out through a nasopharyngeal swab that gathers a sample from a person’s nose and throat for testing. Efforts to spread availability of testing are on the rise through increased manufacture — via 3D printing — of these swabs. Formlabs, for example, has been doing an excellent job of building up its production of such swabs.
Many of these swabs are needed — many — and more companies putting their resources toward providing these supplies is good news indeed. Carbon has been hard at work on this front, working to develop an appropriate, approved new swab design, together with collaborators.
“In less than a week in March, Carbon produced at least 10 different swab designs, several of which were undergoing clinical evaluation.We worked with Stanford Medical Center, Harvard Medical School/Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Ric Fulop at Desktop Metal, Chan Zuckerberg BioHub, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on these evaluations,” Carbon explains of the development.
Carbon describes its swabs:
“The new Resolution Medical Lattice Swab exhibits a conformal lattice design made with Carbon’s Lattice Engine software. The hollow structure of the lattice was designed initially for specimen collection efficiency, with a geometry that is also flexible to promote functionality and comfort for patients.”
The design developed, the next step has been increasing supply.
Today, the company announces that it is producing “1M+/ per week” of these swabs, “with distribution support from Resolution Medical.” Importantly, they also note that “Carbon is able to scale to producing millions of swabs per week.”
COVID-19 is a viral disease spread through droplets and affecting the respiratory system; this is why we’re seeing so very many efforts focusing around the production of PPE that offers a physical barrier against virus transmission. While masks were among the first designs explored, many of these have proven to be ineffective uses of 3D printing, and face shields have taken the fore.
Carbon collaborated with Verily to design a face shield that can be produced using its DLS 3D printers. Stanford Hospital and Kaiser Permanente offered feedback on the design, which Carbon has been working “to facilitate local-for-local, on-demand production of these Face Shields to protect healthcare professionals and first responders on the COVID-19 frontlines.”
Work with its network of partners and customers has seen these face shields go into production. Dental customer Candid, for example, has “diverted its manufacturing operations to produce face shields” with the intent to produce thousands of these face shields over the coming weeks.
Today, the company notes that one of its highest-profile customers is joining in the efforts for these face shields, as adidas is supporting the work to donate these face shields to those who need them.
Using the material co-created for 4D printed footwear, these face masks are now being produced at volume; Carbon says they are “now producing more than 18,000 PPE face shields each week with an additional capacity to produce more than 50,000 face shields per week across its global network.”
Collaboration Against COVID-19
In keeping with much of Carbon’s messaging across the company’s history, collaboration has clearly been key to getting these much-needed medical devices into the hands (and onto the faces) of those who need them most.
Throughout the announcements today, and visible throughout Carbon’s COVID-19 response page, are the names of the developmental partners, feedback organizations, manufacturing sites, and others who they are working with to ensure that these solutions are both developed and disseminated.
That’s exactly what we as an industry need to see. Collaboration, not competition. This is a disease, and it’s not picky about who is infected. From prime ministers to local leaders to grannies in retirement communities, COVID-19 is impacting us all, and so we all need to work together against it.
Carbon’s face shield design is open source and available online. While this particular design is intended for production with Carbon’s 3D printers and materials, that represents another 3D printing technology to get into production of these shields, as most designs out there now are for FFF 3D printers.
Let’s hope we see more of the 3D printing community, including leading companies, banding together to provide the high-volume solutions needed (once, as these have been, they have been validated for safe and effective use, of course).
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