3D printing medical equipment

For the last week and a bit I have been 3D printing a variety of protective equipment for healthcare in the UK.

I found a group called 3Dcrowd that have been coordinating an effort to supply face shields to healthcare across the UK. You can visit their website if you want to request face shields for your GP surgery or hospital or sign up as a volunteer.

They have chosen to focus on the Prusa RC3 face shield (when the group started it was the RC2 version) which can be found here. I set up the files on my Prusa i3 MK3S using a 0.3 mm layer height and the first prints came out great, apart from the arms of the frame which kept detaching from the buildplate and causing messy layers on the pegs for the elastic, so to fix that I came up with some brim ears in PrusaSlicer.

Prusa RC2 frames printed.
Prusa RC3 with added brim ears.

I was lucky enough to have two kilos of PETG donated to the cause by the lovely Tim at 3DFilaPrint in a nice translucent black colour. The prints have come out very well so far and I have delivered a number to local healthcare organisations already.

A completed face shield with visor and elastic.

I also found a design that is  suitable for resin printers, Photocentric, a resin and printing company based in Peterborough, UK, have developed a design that can be produced on resin machines. This design can be found here.

I currently have an Elegoo Mars, which is not exactly the largest build plate on the market, but I thought I would give it a go. I loaded the file into ChiTuBox and saw that the file was slightly too large for the vertical travel of the printer. Nevertheless I sliced and exported the file and set it to print using some Photocentric Hard resin. Imagine my shock 8 hours later when I am confronted with a perfectly fine, complete model. Apparently ChiTuBox doesn't think the Mars can print this file, but decides to slice and export it nonetheless? In any case, by my estimate you can cram 5 of these models onto the build plate of a Mars and have them all printed at 0.1mm layer height in about 8 hours 55 minutes. I tried to get even more on the build plate but the probability of getting a decent print decreased.

Photocentric face shield components on a Mars build plate.
A snapshot of the print settings and estimated time.

I am currently printing in Photocentric Hard, but the firm resin is probably more appropriate. These have come out quite well, the visors for these can be made from thin plastic sheets and the holes are the same width apart as a normal hole punch. (80mm)

Two completed Photocentric face shield frames.
Close up of one of the face shield frames.

There are other designs out there that can be printed quicker than the Prusa design, notably the 3DVerkstan model and my personal favourite, the National 3D printing society design, which offsets the visor further from the forehead than the 3DVerkstan design. Both of these designs would probably scale quite well to an injection moulding method.

3Dcrowd is currently only supporting the Prusa RC3 model, but I'm sure that there will be demand for other pieces of equipment that healthcare will run short of. If you know of a piece of equipment that is currently in short supply let me know and I can try to design a 3D printed alternative.

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