As the coronavirus pandemic is taking a toll over the globe including developed countries, several countries have announced travel restrictions, work from home policies, and social distancing measures. Despite the advanced medical facilities and infrastructure in the developed countries, there is an overcrowding at the hospitals resulting in a surge in the demand for essential components such as respirators, masks, and other personal safety equipment.
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Given that huge demand, the traditional processes might take time and this has given an opportunity for the 3D printing community to step forward to help during the global crisis. Notably, there are challenges in the same as medical devices are complicated and 3D printing of these can have unforeseen consequences. But there are some companies that have managed to overcome these challenges and have come up with essential components that help in treating or curbing the spread of coronavirus.
Not only 3D printing but also other tech startups operating in various industries such as robotics, healthtech, etc. have also come forward to unleash their expertise in an attempt to bring the global crisis under control. Let’s take a look at the various innovative products such as 3D printed respirator valves to face shields that can be used in the battle against COVID-19.
Founder/s: Anna Roberts
Founded year: NA
Manchester-based biotech firm Virustatic has developed a snood with a germ trap technology. The snood is a result of a 10-year project and it has been hurried into production due to the coronavirus outbreak. The developers claim that the fabric coating features a similar formation as carbohydrate structures on the cells’ surface that cover the oesophagus. They have come up with the technology by attaching glycoproteins to carbon cloth and other cheaper materials including cotton.
During tests, this snood developed by Virustatic has been successful in trapping 96% of airborne viruses. It is touted to be more breathable and flexible as compared to conventional masks. These snoods moulds to the wearer’s face and not only nose and mouth and is a one-fit-for-all solution.
KC Wearable (China)
Founded year: NA
KC Wearable is one of the leading smart wearable tech and innovation companies in China. Recently, the company launched its smart helmet called N901smart helmet for fast-screening of fevers in public spaces to combat COVID-19. This smart helmet lets users monitor the temperature of 13 people at a given time and it can scan 200 individuals per minute. This smart helmet could prove to be beneficial at a time when governments around the world are trying their best to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Notably, this helmet is already deployed to use by police in Shenzhen. It features an infrared temperature detector, a camera to read QR codes, an augmented reality visor, and 5G, Bluetooth and WiFi to beam the data to the nearest hospital. Featuring facial recognition technology, the smart helmet from KC Wearable will display the name of the person it is testing on the AR visor along with the person’s medical history.
Founder/s: Cristian Fracassi
Founded year: 2014
Italy is one of the hardest hit European countries but that seems to have not stopped the tech startups in the country from coming up with essential products. While a hospital in Italy was running out of critical supplies, a 3D printing startup Isinnova came to its rescue with Venturi valves that are essential for Venturi Oxygen masks to work.
The company’s first prototype using a 3D printer was ready in just six hour and it could supply the hospital with 100 working valves that were printed within a day. It is touted that these valves have very tiny holes and tubes of less than 0.8m, which is challenging to print these pieces. Moreover, as these are going to be used by hospitals, these should not be contaminated. The team at Isinnova has teamed with 3D printed adapter that can turn a snorkelling mask into a non-invasive ventilator for patients affected by COVID-19. This will help address the shortage of oxygen masks.
Founder/s: Wilfried Vancraen
Founded year: 1990
Funding: €22.7 million
Door handles are one of the most common germ-infested objects in any place such as houses, factories, hospitals etc. Keeping this in mind, the Belgian 3D printing startup Materialise has come up with a 3D print hands-free door opener. What’s even more interesting is that the company has made this design available for download for free. The hands-free door handle attachment comprises two parts that have to be screwed to either side of a handle. And, all you need to do to open and close a door is to just use your elbow or arm to turn the handle.
Blue Ocean Robotics (Denmark)
Founder/s: Claus Risager, Rune K. Larsen, John Erland Østergaard
Founded year: 2013
Funding: €44.3 million
Denmark-based Blue Ocean Robotics develops, produces, and sells professional service robots across industries such as construction, hospitality, agriculture, and healthcare. Its portfolio includes brands such as Beam Robots, UVD Robots, PTR Robots and a handful of other service robots. On account of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has come up with a sterilising robot that can kill virus cells and sanitise hospital wards sans any chemicals. The UV-sanitising robots have eight bulbs that emit concentrated UV-C ultraviolet light that can destroy viruses, bacteria, and other harmful chemicals by damaging their RNA and DNA so that these cannot multiply.
The UV-sanitizing robots were launched in early 2019 as a result of a collaboration between Blue Ocean Robotics and Odense University Hospital. Due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the demand for these robots has been accelerated and the company can make one day in less than a day.
Founder/s: Zhao Wanqiu
Founded year: 2017
YouiBot is a high-tech robotics company in Shenzhen that focuses on the research, development, and manufacturing of robots. The company has already been developing robotic solutions for a range of industries. It has been providing partners with mobile robot ontology and integrated solutions. With a surge in demand due to COVID-19, YouiBot has added thermal camera and UV-C bulbs to its existing robot base. And, it has supplied these robots to offices, factories, an airport, and a hospital in Wuhan. During the day, it is used for checking body temperature and at night it kills viruses, touts the company.
Founded year: 2003
China-based Winsun is a 3D printing company that has deployed its rapid 3D printing capabilities in the construction industry to manufacture 15 coronavirus isolation wards in a single day. Originally, these concrete cabins were designed to be used as holiday homes but the production has been ramped up now due to meet the demand so that people can stay in isolation instead of being at the overcrowded hospitals in China during the pandemic.
Wondering what these small concrete homes have got? Well, there are eco-toilets and showers. These were printed via an extrusion process with a robotic arm that is mounted on rails to deposit layers of concrete to form the walls. Winsun uses recycled construction rubble to build these structures and tout that these are twice as strong as conventional concrete structures.
Founder/s: Josef Prusa
Founded year: 2012
Prusa, a Czech startup is touted to be one of the largest 3D printing companies in the world with over 500 printers. At the time of the pandemic outbreak, the company has started the mass production of the face shields meant to be used by medics. It is making over 800 masks a day and has already donated 10,000 masks to the Czech ministry of health. Notably, the Prusa face shield is affordable as the materials used to manufacture a single unit cost less than $1.
Founder/s: Abhinav Lal, Shashank ND
Founded year: 2008
Funding: €228 million
As many people opt for the coronavirus screening as they do not want to be affected by the same. Due to the same, Practo, a digital healthcare platform has joined hands with Thyrocare, a diagnostic lab chain to conduct COVID-19 screenings. It is touted that the COVID-19 test screening on Practo is authorised by the government and ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research). The healthcare platform notes that the test will be conducted by certified phlebotomists who will collect the samples directly from the patients homes.
Main image picture credits: Simbe Robotics
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