Since launching the 3D printing effort in April, the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI) and its partners have printed thousands of pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) for Indiana hospitals and other organizations on the front lines of the war against COVID-19. The various teams are currently developing designs and printing face shields, N95 masks, ventilator parts, test swabs and “ear savers” (small pieces of plastic that can be attached behind someone’s head to alleviate discomfort from wearing surgical masks).
The Indiana CTSI is helping coordinate efforts between various “maker” groups at its partner universities (Indiana University, Purdue University and the University of Notre Dame), as well as working with other universities and the local campuses of Ivy Tech Community College. The team is also working with healthcare organizations to coordinate needs with supply in real time, helping alleviate supply shortages by mobilizing 3D printers for rapid manufacturing and distribution.
“The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a significant interruption of the PPE supply chain,” said Christine Gladieux, VP of Financial Operations of American Senior Communities, which received more than 1,000 3D printed face shields. “Key protective equipment has been extremely difficult to procure as our normal medical supply vendors had depleted their inventories and manufacturing has been halted. Prices of PPE increased; in many cases by 100%. The donation of the 3D printed face shields provides a much needed piece of protective equipment that significantly reduces transmission in a community setting. Face shields are considered a main accessory to our Super Hero’s uniform. I am extremely grateful to the Indiana CTSI.”
“The speed at which this collaboration has been able to form and evolve – starting from the first call-to-action in late March – has been amazing to watch,” said Kara Garcia, PhD, who is the Evansville navigator for the Indiana CTSI. “Our maker groups have worked incredibly hard to quickly, efficiently pivot to meet the ever-changing supply needs in the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In one situation, some dentists wanted to mount a light on the face shields. Within 48 hours of the request, the Ivy Tech Valparaise team was able to test a new design, print and deliver the first batch of face shields for the various dentist offices.
The Indiana CTSI is also taking on a coordination role, giving local organizations an opportunity to share their needs through a REDCap survey, which is routed to a program manager who can connect the request with one of the teams to fill their needs.
“The collaboration and comradery amongst so many different organizations around the state has been both impressive and uplifting,” said Jake Lazarus, who is the program manager for the Indiana CTSI 3D printing effort. “Thousands of face shields and ear guards have been printed, purely out of a desire to improve lives and ensure that Indiana’s essential employees such as healthcare workers and first responders can do their jobs without fear of COVID-19, and that motivates us to do what we can to support them and make the connections with the people out there in need of this PPE.”
Collaborators at Ivy Tech have now made close to 15,000 face shields utilizing their 3D printers, which have been distributed to county health departments and local organizations in need, or sent to a statewide stockpile for future use.
The teams are continuing to adapt and innovate to meet the needs of different groups they serve. University groups across the state are continuing to develop other high-demand items like test swabs and N95 masks, in collaboration with Indiana healthcare systems for validation.