Introducing CAR3D, the COVID-19 Rapid Response Innovation Project
Improving Europe’s capacity to produce Personal Protective Equipment
The ongoing pandemic of COVID-19 is creating sanitary challenges like never seen before. Until there is a vaccine or effective treatment, the use of masks and other types of personal protective equipment (PPE), is the best way to limit the spread of the virus circulation. The challenge is to maintain the supply of masks, which are often not made for reuse, as well as other PPE, such as face shields.
Additive Manufacturing, leveraging technologies such as 3D printing, could help to meet the demand for masks and other equipment, particularly in the case of reusable masks. However, we are faced with stark disparities across Europe in the standards and varieties of PPE and the coordination of regulatory certification.
The European edge in additive manufacturing and its short-term reconfiguration potential seems to be a promising solution to the current crisis. Several PPEs solutions have been proposed by 3D Printing sectors. However, these solutions need urgent improvements (ergonomics, breathability and skin contact). Additionally, none of them has been certified for medical use and coordination between initiatives is laking. This project aims to identify existing solutions and create reference designs for sanitary materials that comply with all the quality and safety requirements. In addition, coordination will be set up by creating a reference platform for a better response to future crises, with design, contacts and supply chains already in place.
A group of partners will work to design, develop and validate reusable masks that comply with EU specifications, making that design available for replication around Europe. The masks will meet quality standards in areas such as ergonomics, breathability and comfortable skin contact. The partners will also seek to design face shields that meet EU standards. The PPE created through this project will not receive a proprietary patent, and the digital designs will be shared widely, so that local Additive Manufacturers all over Europe can engage in production of high quality, reusable masks and face shields.
The immediate aims of the project are to reduce the pressure of the procurement of PPE by ensuring a greater supply of products that meet EU standards are widely available. Increased production will also reduce dependence on suppliers from outside Europe, as well as the use of PPE that does not meet European quality standards. Involving Additive Manufacturing suppliers means the current demand can be met without the need to scale up a new, dedicated industry, and it establishes a network of suppliers who can be called on in other emergencies.