Fraunhofer IGCV supplies protective equipment from the 3D printer to Augsburg University Hospital
Since April 2020, the Institute for Materials Resource Management at the University of Augsburg has supplied Augsburg University Hospital with protective masks from the 3D printer. To cover the enormous demand for necessary protective equipment for the hospital staff, a call for support was sent to the cooperation partners Augsburg University of Applied Sciences and Fraunhofer IGCV.
Maintaining the best possible medical care: In the corona pandemic context, this is only possible when doctors and hospital staff are protected against infections. Respiratory masks can prevent infection with the virus via the mouth and nose. But protective goggles and face masks are also indispensable components of personal protective equipment: they can be used to ward off infection via the eyes. But what if the latter is no longer available due to the current enormous demand? A massive challenge, which the University Hospital Augsburg also had to face at the end of March. The idea: protective masks from the 3D printer.
Fast communication in the research network: Production of 3D printed parts starts up in the shortest time
Without further ado, an internal university unit searched for possibilities of manufacturing via 3D printing. Prof. Dr. Markus Sause and Prof. Dr. Kay Weidenmann of the Institute for Materials Resource Management at the University of Augsburg immediately agreed and pulled out all the stops to start production as quickly as possible. In order to provide as many protective masks as possible in the shortest possible time, an appeal was also made to existing cooperation partners. They found what they were looking for in their direct colleague Prof. Dr. Johannes Schilp, Professor of Production Informatics at the University of Augsburg and Head of the Processing Technology Department at the Augsburg Fraunhofer IGCV: Max Horn, research associate at the Fraunhofer Institute, and Paul Dolezal from the FabLab (production laboratory) at Augsburg University of Applied Sciences immediately promised their help. »Thanks to the great cooperation of our team, the first parts were produced in our laboratory for additive manufacturing just a few hours after the first telephone call,« Max Horn recalls. »With the support of the Augsburg University of Applied Sciences and the Fraunhofer IGCV, the production capacity of 50 masks per day could be significantly increased,« Markus Sause is pleased to report.
Printing masks with Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) was selected as the manufacturing process for the face protection. This means that the mask is created by forcing fusible plastic through a nozzle and applying it in individual lanes layers. In addition to an extensive laboratory for metal-based additive manufacturing, the Fraunhofer IGCV operates a new laboratory unit with various FDM printers. Due to the simplicity of the process and its great flexibility, it is particularly suitable for prototypes and sample components. »However, the masks produced are by no means only illustrative objects«, adds Georg Schlick, Head of the Components and Processes Department at the Fraunhofer IGCV. The team processed durable polymers for the parts, which have good resistance to the disinfectants used in the hospital. This results in high-quality components that are ideally suited for multiple uses.
Additive manufacturing for Flexible Production
Some bottlenecks have since been overcome: The Institute for Materials Resource Management at the University of Augsburg is switching back to production processes to manufacture face masks that are better suited for the production of large quantities. »The great strength of additive manufacturing rather lies in the production of very complex components with smaller quantities,« explains Matthias Schmitt, group leader for additive manufacturing at the Fraunhofer IGCV. »But 3D printing also enables us to act at concise notice and to compensate for lack of capacity for almost any component as required,« Schmitt continues. Thanks to the flexibility, motivation, and expertise of all cooperation partners, a complete production and supply chain for the face masks was implemented within a few days. Georg Schlick, therefore, emphasizes the need for good networking and rapid exchange between the research institutions. »The close networking within the 3D printing community enables short communication channels and fast action. This can save lives in this case.«
Update: Delivery for the Johanniter call for donations
As part of the MGA initiative »3D Printing fights Corona«, 5,000 face shields were handed over to Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe on Wednesday, April 29, 2020. Fraunhofer IGCV also participated in the call for help by the international network for industrial 3D printing MGA (Mobility goes Additive e.V.). The additively manufactured face shields provide support in the current difficult procurement situation.
Further information: Press release Mobility goes Additive e.V.