At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, traditional supply chains struggled to keep up with the demand for critical need medical items. One key item in particular was the nasopharyngeal swab used for sample collection during patient testing. Many production methods were shut down due to workers being quarantined. Those facilities that were able to still produce were at capacity. The shortage of swabs affected the ability of health organizations to test and develop methods to control the spread of the virus.
3D printing companies stepped up and began printing thousands of swabs. One of those companies was nTopology. The engineering staff worked with Origin to rapidly design and manufacture the critical swabs. The design was approved on April 12, after passing clinical evaluation testing. Together, nTopology and Origin ramped up to make 1 million+ swabs a week.
nTopology and Origin’s technology is a fit to create swabs. Nasopharyngeal swabs require specific design features and complex structures for specimen capture and carrying efficacy. These design features were easily made in nTop Platform, software for digital manufacturing. The software removes geometry bottlenecks in design for more efficient workflows, which improve team collaboration and iteration. The ability to test multiple different designs was critical to finding the best possible one in the shortest amount of time.
Initial designs and prints were turned around in 1 hour, with further revisions and design iterations made the same day. Origin’s manufacturing technology and open material platform easily handled the complex structures that make swabs hard to make traditionally. A single 8- hour long print can produce 1,500 swabs and production capacity is being brought online to be able to make 1 million swabs a week to meet the demand.
The collective effort was possible through industry and partners coming together, sharing information, and focusing on generating solutions rapidly. A consortium emerged from these efforts – printedswabs.org, which is helping share information and match manufacturers to hospitals in critical need. Many companies are working together to provide solutions that address this critical supply need and innovation has only been possible by collaboration.
Filed Under: Hack the Crisis: Engineering through COVID-19, Make Parts Fast