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A 3-D printing farm producing face shield components at the CU Denver downtown campus Inworks facility.EXPAND
A 3-D printing farm producing face shield components at the CU Denver downtown campus Inworks facility.
Kelsie Faulds

Make4Covid Using 3-D to Fight PPE Shortage

Make4Covid, a collaboration of Colorado’s higher education community, medical professionals and other entrepreneurs, has been working to make masks and face shields using 3-D printing technology for health-care workers battling the coronavirus outbreak.

According to Kristin Wood, senior associate dean of innovation and engagement at the University of Colorado Denver, the project was initiated by the CU Anschutz Medical Center and its Inworks program a few weeks ago.

“Inworks is an organization and program at CU Denver that’s really innovation-focused,” says Wood, who is also a professor in the College of Engineering, Design and Computing at CU Denver, executive director of the Comcast Center and current interim director of Inworks.

“At the Anschutz Medical Center in particular, [the program] works directly with clinicians, doctors and hospitals in innovating for their needs,” Wood explains. “So they initiated this Make4Covid program to address the outcry from doctors and clinicians of the great need for [personal protective equipment] in various forms and, in particular, some really critical needs in face shields and face masks.”

Make4Covid's goal is to create approved designs and methods for small-batch manufacturers and “makers” in Colorado to produce ventilators, protective gear and other medical equipment. The collaboration includes employees of the University of Colorado and Red Rocks Community College, along with private companies Respirogen, Plasticare, Prospect Life Sciences and Dassault Systèmes.

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Before issuing his statewide stay-at-home order, Governor Jared Polis had issued an executive order barring all elective and non-essential surgeries until April 14 in an effort to preserve personal protective equipment. The governor has also said that states will have to take an unprecedented role in securing their own PPE supplies.

Now Colorado is stepping up.

Dr. Brooke French, co-director of the craniofacial surgery program at Children's Hospital of Colorado, tests a Prusa design prototype.EXPAND
Dr. Brooke French, co-director of the craniofacial surgery program at Children's Hospital of Colorado, tests a Prusa design prototype.
Nicholas Jacobson

“There is a shortage,” Wood says. “There’s no doubt about that. While some of the supply chain from China has reopened…hospitals everywhere around the country are very much stating that there’s a great need for PPE of all types. Many hospitals are reusing PPE even though that’s not typically the recommendation to do so.”

While the Make4Covid team is working on some other items, Wood says that its main efforts focus on masks and face shields. “Hundreds of face shields have been delivered to clinicians in Colorado, in particular the Denver area,” he adds. “The face masks have gone through prototyping and have been delivered to clinicians for testing.”

The collaboration is working with hospital administrations to set up a supply chain for its current products. But it's already considering other equipment.

“A number of different components are being contemplated by many groups around the country, including here in Colorado," says Woods. "Ventilators, respirators and also some surgical devices that are part of the personal protective equipment. The great need that could be delivered very quickly was the face shields and the face masks.”

The Make4Covid collaboration, which is currently funded through donations, is seeking volunteers with certain skill sets to help make PPE for Denver-area and Colorado medical providers. For more information and to donate, visit make4covid.co.

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