U of O lab putting 3D printers to use in fight against COVID-19

An Ottawa lab is heeding the call to help frontline health-care workers by using its 3D printers to manufacture vital personal protective equipment.

The Ontario Medical Association and the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario say there’s an imminent threat of shortages of items such as face masks as hospitals prepare for the anticipated wave of COVID-19 patients.

“We know that we have a certain set of knowledge, skills and resources that could make a difference. So it’s not about why we wanted to do it, but it’s like, why not do it?” said Midia Shikh Hassan, one of the managers at the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Engineering Design (CEED) at the University of Ottawa, home of the Richard L’Abbé Makerspace.

The centre is working with physicians from The Ottawa Hospital and engineers to improve the design of protective face shields and other items that can be produced with the 3D printers, sensors, wires and laser cutters at their disposal.

“We know that we have the capability, we have equipment, we have … an army of students and community members who always want to help and support these initiatives. So, we thought that we’d try and give it our best,” she said.

“It’s really heartbreaking to see what’s going on now.”

Post-secondary institutions stepping up

In his address to Canadians on Monday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government has reached out to universities, colleges and cégeps for use of their health-care equipment.

“At the same time, we’re looking at innovative solutions they can be part of including 3D printing of medical supplies. Many institutions have already stepped up and many more will do the same,” Trudeau said.

CEED can create 10 to 20 face shields every two hours using their various 3D printers and two laser cutters at a cost of between $7 and $10 per shield.

University of Ottawa maker space takes on 3D-printing of medical supplies

Midia Shikh Hassan, co-manager at the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Engineering Design, says using their resources and skills to help the health-care industry deal with COVID-19 is “a social responsibility.” 0:58

CEED has its sights set on more elaborate equipment, too: Shikh Hassan said once the final design is complete, a single ventilator could be produced within two and a half hours.

She said CEED will publish its final designs online so other makers can start production, wherever they are. The centre is also hoping community members with access to 3D printers will step up to make some needed items, such as the forehead piece for the face shields.

“We’re all doing everything possible to contain the situation as much as possible and to support each other,” she said. “We’re all in this together.”

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