How 3D-printing is playing a role in coronavirus testing
The coronavirus pandemic which has infected more than half a million people and killed at least 25,000 has been an obstacle for the global supply chain following the shutdown in China.
Though China has begun to restart its factories, in other countries closed borders and lockdowns have thrown the supply chain into flux, prompting the FDA to allow alternatives and forcing health systems to get creative— especially as demand for testing equipment rises with the increased testing in the U.S.
As the U.S. case count surges past 100,000, the dire situation unfolding for frontline health workers includes shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical equipment.
It’s why Northwell Health, New York’s largest health-care provider, took matters into its own hands and started 3-D printing nasal swabs used for COVID-19 testing.
“First it was the kits, then it became the reagents [in short supply], then it became the swabs. Clearly, we couldn’t print the kits or the reagents,” Todd Goldstein, director of design and innovation at Northwell, told Yahoo Finance. “Its tough, everyone wants the same supplies at the same time.”
Northwell came up with the design and began testing patients with them within days. To test the accuracy of the printed swabs, the clinicians used both industrial swabs and 3D-printed swabs on each patient and then sent them both to the lab to compare the results. On Friday, the results came back — both swabs produced similar results.
The high risk of outbreak in the New York region led to a shuttering of the health system’s research institute, which resulted in the pre-clinical testing relying on a partnership with the University of South Florida in Tampa.
Working through conference calls, video calls and screenshots, the swab was developed using Formlabs printers.
Northwell can now produce up to 1,500 swabs per day using eight printers, and is offering the product’s code for free to any health system or lab with the same printer to use, according to Goldstein.