COVID Update: 3D Printing

3d printer making medical device

A MADLab 3d printer making an experimental medical device – photo courtesy of Mike Spears, ACT

Like almost all North American schools (and many around the world), we’ve had to switch the way we teach and learn due to the Covid-19 pandemic. That means significant increases in the use of technology, and in demand for support around those technologies. In a series of posts, we will be sharing some visualizations of those changes.

Today we feature a short story from my colleague, Mike Spears, manager of our Mobile Application Development Lab (MADLab) in the Gerstein Science Information Centre. The MADLab was the site of the first public-access 3D printers for member of the UofT community (several instructor-run labs had them, but not a general access printing service; it has since been replicated at Robarts Library as well).

As the University was shutting down last week, Mike was preparing to close up the MADLab, when he was approached by graduate student from our Della Lana School of Public Health, Aasha Gnanalingam. Aasha was inquiring about the possibility of using the 3D printers to create medical supplies – which has now become a hot topic in Ontario and around the world. So Mike packed up one of the lab’s Makerbot Replicator 2 printers and took it home. Aasha had suggested he look at the Gila Free Medical Hardware project.

Over the past week, Mike has been experimenting. As Mike says, “The first project we looked into trying is the faceshield. There are definitely some unknowns though.”

Factors to ascertain include the appropriateness of the printing materials (in Mike case, PLA), strength, flexibility, and of course the sanitizing process. But he’s not worried. He’s connecting with others who are starting to step up the work around 3D printing medical materials to help deal with the covid-19 pandemic.

For about our MADLab, please visit: