There has been a large scale response by the 3D printing community to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a giant effort to close the gap between supply and demand for PPE for front-line NHS workers. In recent weeks, some really clever and innovative designs have been released for people to produce but all have been designed and optimised for FDM printers.
Nick Allen, MD at 3DPrintUK says, “From the very beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, in common with numerous other 3D printing companies, we analysed ways in which we could make useful interventions and help the efforts of the NHS.
“One thing we noticed was that many of the face shield related designs were perfectly suited for FDM machines, but didn’t work well with the SLS process. As a company, we are intimately associate with SLS, and have printed over 2 million SLS prints, so we began to look at how we could optimise designs for the 3D printing technology that we use every day.”
What the team at 3DPrintUK noticed when they looked, for example, at the amazingly well-designed and ground-breaking Prusa face shield design was that only 14 individual head bands could be printed on the EOS Formiga P110 SLS machine at a time. The team focussed on a design that the P110 could accommodate in much larger numbers. By nesting the main peak component inside one another they were able to create one that allowed for 260 to be printed in a single print with a 27-hour build time.
Allen continues: “That is six minutes per shield, which is a game changer. The design that we created clips together in 10 seconds, uses silicone straps for adjustment, can take an acetate sheet with three holes, is lightweight at only 42 g, and is sterilisable with IPA, autoclave, or ethylene oxide (Et0). All in all, we believe that this is the most efficient visor design to produce via 3D printing available today.”