Yes, 3D printing could be the future of manufacturing N95 respirators. There are several countries where N95 respirators have been in acute shortage because of the novel coronavirus. The United States of America (USA) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are one of those countries that have faced a shortage of N95 respirators and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during the novel coronavirus.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is medical equipment that keeps a person safe from harmful airborne particles. Such equipment does not let harmful airborne particles enter into an individual’s body. The Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) includes N95 respirators, surgical masks, eye protection, face shields, hand sanitizers, disinfectants, gloves, and gowns, etc. Healthcare professionals use PPE to keep an individual safe from injurious airborne particles like infectious agents and harmful infections.
3D printing could be the future of manufacturing N95 respirators and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). UAE is one of those countries that has started manufacturing N95 respirators through 3D printing. The New York University of UAE and Mubadala healthcare have manufactured a face mask that resembles the N95 respirator. The face mask is effective at filtering out airborne particles that could harm the health of an individual.
The good thing about this face mask is that it can be reused. The technology of 3D printing has been put into use to design this face mask, and the face mask is as effective as the N95 respirator. The wearer has to decontaminate the N95 respirator to reuse it; this face mask has been manufactured to deal with the scarcity of surgical masks, face masks, and N95 respirators in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
This 3D printed face mask has replaceable filters; this means that this face mask can be sterilized after use, and the wearer can reuse this face mask after decontaminating it. Decontamination of N95 respirators means cleaning the bacteria on the N95 respirator. There are several decontamination methods, and one of those methods is to decontaminate an N95 respirator through dry heat treatment.
Apart from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), there is one more country that is using 3D printing technology to manufacture N95 respirators. One of those countries is the United States of America (USA). A few researchers in Oklahoma developed an N95 respirator by the use of 3D technology to cope with the scarcity of N95 respirators and other crucial PPE for the healthcare providers like doctors, nurses, and physicians, etc.
The reason why the majority of the countries are trying to manufacture N95 respirators is because of the safety the N95 respirator provides. The N95 respirator is the most exceptional Personal protective Equipment (PPE) to filter out harmful airborne particles like dirt, dust, infectious agents, and pollutants, etc. It is relatively safer than other crucial PPE like surgical masks and face masks.
The N95 respirator is a particulate filter that does not let the wearer get infected by harmful diseases like the novel coronavirus and the influenza virus. Since the N95 respirator filters out harmful airborne particles of small sizes, the N95 respirator is the best respirator to combat viral infections. Surgical masks and other face masks cannot filter out particles of small sizes.
The use of N95 respirators has become vital for people around the world. If a person does not wear the N95 respirator, he could get infected by the novel coronavirus. Therefore, the public should use the N95 respirators to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. An individual must wear N95 respirators to deal with the novel coronavirus. Recently, higher authorities have recommended the public to wear surgical masks instead of N95 respirators.
The N95 respirators are more effective than surgical masks; this is why they are left for healthcare professionals in sufficient amounts. Since healthcare professionals put their lives on the line, the Oklahoma researchers are manufacturing N95 respirators by using 3D printers for them to treat the infected patients. Hence, countries like the UAE and the United States are using the technology of 3D printing to manufacture N95 respirators in their countries.
One of the reasons is the scarcity of N95 respirators. The second reason is that the N95 respirators are the most effective PPE to combat the novel coronavirus. 3D printing could be the future of manufacturing N95 respirators. However, the FDA has recently said that the 3D printed N95 respirators are not as effective as the N95 respirators that have been developed by big N95 respirator manufacturers.
In addition to that, the 3D printed N95 respirators do not filter out injurious airborne particles as the N95 respirator does. Therefore, 3D printed N95 respirators are not as efficient as the conventional N95 respirators. 3D printed N95 respirators do not have a tight facial fit as well, which is not good for someone who wants to buy the N95 respirator because of the novel coronavirus!
ConclusionProduction of N95 respirators through the use of the technology of 3D printing could be the future. However, there are some places where the technology of 3D printing will not be beneficial. The 3D printed N95 respirators will not be as effective and efficient as the conventional N95 respirators. Moreover, the facial fit of the N95 respirator will not be tight as well, which means that the N95 respirator has a leakage, and the user could end up inhaling those harmful airborne particles. Hence, such N95 respirators are not safe for the public and healthcare providers.