Pioneers of Printing: Pioneers of the COVID-19 Crisis

With the COVID-19 pandemic still haunting the world, we are once again looking at the 3D printing community and offering you a special edition of our #PioneersOfPrinitng, showing you how the industry is joining forces to overcome the coronavirus crisis.

During this global pandemic, many large and small businesses have step up to provide support with 3D-printed supplies. On our blog, we have already reported on some of the latest undertakings of our fellow print community amidst the COVID-19 crisis, and today, we want to introduce some of the people who used their innovative ideas to push the efforts forward in a special Pioneer of Printing. One of the companies handling their supplies especially well is 3D printing technology developer and manufacturer Formlabs.

Getting Medical Professionals on Board

In our first article about 3D-printed face shields, we mentioned Australian doctor Alexander Clarke who published a flow restriction device early on. But he is not the only doctor who got directly involved in the 3D printing efforts: the Boston-based 3D printing company Formlabs also got medical professionals on board to ensure safety standards for their personal protective equipment (PPE) and swabs. The swab design itself was created by medical professor Dr. Ramy Arnaout, currently working at Beth Israel Deaconess Medial Center in Boston. The company has been working with the FDA for years on medical-grade materials and software and already knew what it takes to build products that can be successfully used in clinical settings. So when the virus hit, they were able to quickly react and come up with solutions, providing hospitals with large quantities of their essential COVID-19 test kit components and even mobilizing their community of users to contribute as well.

Crowdfunding Success

Formlabs itself has been around for a while: It was founded in September 2011 by MIT Media Lab students Maxim Lobovsky, Natan Linder and David Cranor after meeting in a class called „How to Make (almost) Anything“. They developed their first affordable and easy-to-use stereolithography 3D printer, the Form 1, and announced it a year later, in October 2012, in a Kickstarter campaign raising almost 3 million USD. The support on the crowdfunding platform ranked them as one of the most highly funded crowdfunding projects until that time. Their product managed to utilize 3D orienting technology stereolithography in a smaller, desktop-class device instead of the previously known larger and more expensive machines. The company has since brought a range of new printers to the market, including the Fuse 1, Form Wash + Form Cure, Form Cell and PreForm, improving on speed, print quality and reliability of their printers while also creating machines and software packages to optimize the consumer’s 3D printing experience.

In 2014, Formlabs was featured in the Netflix Original documentary film “Print the Legend”, focussing on the 3D printing revolution, alongside MakerBot, Stratasys and 3D Systems.

Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic as a threat to people’s health livelihood, Formlabs uses their 3D printing technology and reliable community to support COVID-19 response efforts and address associated supply chain shortages.

A Community Effort

But let’s be honest, fighting the crisis really is a community effort. So, the true heroes of this unfortunate situation aren’t only the people who design the templates, but also every single private person, small business or global player starting their 3D printer and contributing their manufactured products. There is even a Discord Server for the 3D printing COVID-19 response to connect the 3D printing and additive manufacturing community and those who are looking for assistance related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Have you joined any efforts to support the healthcare industry in the fight against the coronavirus? What do you think about the initiatives of businesses and 3D printing enthusiasts?