3D printing in the time of COVID-19: Connecting makers with medical facilities in need

April 20, 2020
In this episode of The Tool Belt, Mara Hitner explores how makers are 3D printing parts to fight COVID-19.

Mara Hitner is director of business development for MatterHackers. Mara's mission is to empower, enable and equip everyone to create our future by turning the ideas they have into the things they use via desktop 3D printers, CNC machines and laser cutters. Plant Services editor in chief Thomas Wilk caught up with her to learn how makers across the country are using 3D printers to produce medical components and PPE for hospitals in need. Here is an excerpt from the podcast.

PS: We connected through a mutual friend who was showcasing some of the work that MatterHackers is doing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the Maker Response Hub. Can you tell us more about the Maker Response Hub?

MH: We started Maker Response Hub about five weeks ago, and it was really in response to our community. We started seeing a few 3D printing designs for people that wanted to help with the shortage of personal protective equipment in hospitals. Some of the designs were even 3D printable on desktop 3D printers. As you know, our customers come from different places, including hospitals, so I have some contacts there. I was talking to one of them, and she had a file for a no-contact door pull that she had designed. She said, "I'm trying to print as many of these as I can, but I just can't print them fast enough." I said, "Well, you're in Pennsylvania, and I know a maker space in Pennsylvania that has tons of printers. Why don't I hook you guys up, and they can print for you?" And that's kind of how this all started.

Being MatterHackers, we know where all the 3D printers are. So we started an online hub where people can say “I have 3D printers, and I want to use them to help,” or “I'm a medical facility and I need 3D printed things.” Today, we have over 4,700 volunteers who have raised their hands and said that they want to use their 3D printers. So many 3D printers right now are idle. Schools that have 3D printers are closed. A lot of businesses, unfortunately, are non-essential, so they've had to shut down. Many of them have walls of 3D printers, and they want to use them to help.

We've shipped over 15,000 pieces to 53 different facilities across the country. Everyone with 3D printers (businesses, schools, individuals, etc.) has been here waiting for someone to call us into action and really give us a purpose. As soon as the community saw this opportunity to help, they started making these designs that were very easily printable in inexpensive material with inexpensive machines.

Listen to the entire interview below

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