3D Printing could be argued as the silver bullet in overcoming personal protective equipment challenges during the onset of the pandemic.
Cynthia Star, the director of Technology Transfer for Johnson & Johnson’s 3D Printing team spoke about the importance of the process in a session titled ‘How Has the COVID-19 Pandemic Affected Adoption of 3D Printing in Medtech,’ during Virtual Engineering Week.
Star noted that very early in the pandemic, the company asked itself how it could harness the power of 3D printing to provide solutions. Two areas stood out -global reach and manufacturing speed.
“Since this was a global crisis, what about fulfilling local demand with regional printing,” she said during the conference. “We considered the impact of this disease around the world and wanted to make sure we produced a global solution. And from a manufacturing speed perspective are there medical device needs where 3D printing can provide a quick solution. As the disease spread, the solution had to keep pace.”
J&J ’s Ethicon would have its 3D printing prowess tested during the pandemic through a collaboration with Prisma Health. The Greenville, SC-based healthcare system received emergency use authorization from FDA for a ventilator. The EUA came at a time when there was a shortage of ventilators in the U.S.
J&J’s Ethicon was able to use its 3D printing manufacturing technology to manufacture and distribute Prisma Health’s VESper Ventilator Expansion Splitter at no cost to healthcare providers. VESper is an expansion device that allows a single ventilator to support up to two patients during times of acute equipment shortages.
News of the ventilation system hit March 25 and by March 27 J&J had its first conversation with Prisma Health. The project kick-off was on the same day Star said.
It took about 10 days from prototype to launch. She noted that partners were printing parts of the device only two days after receiving the 3D model.
“By leveraging J&J 3D Printing capabilities allowed engineers to transfer the concept from a digital design to a 3D-printed commercial product,” Star said. “It demonstrated that with 3D printing, ideas can come to life quickly. The value of 3D printing allowed our teams to move from concept to design and then prototyping to commercialization enabling a rapid response to an emerging critical patient need.”
In a race against the virus, the collaboration was quick, efficient, and effective.
“It was a physician at Prisma that had the original idea and additive manufacturing allowed the design to be realized rapidly,” Star said. “J&J’s healthcare expertise, especially its medical device supply chain, combined with its additive manufacturing footprint enabled the delivery of a safe and quality device to healthcare providers.”