A customised 3D bioprinter made in Wollongong is now doing its bit to help health workers during the COVID-19 crisis.
And University of Wollongong researcher Dr Gordon Wallace couldn't be happier his team is in a position to create and design much-needed 3D printed face shields for the region's health workers.
"They're in high demand, there is a great shortage of them and they are needed immediately," the Translational Research Initiative for Cellular Engineering and Printing (TRICEP) director said.
"With the COVID-19 crisis, obviously people around the world before us have started to look at the use of 3D printing in order to create devices or structures that might facilitate or help in this crisis.
"We are working closely with the [Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District] just to determine would we could do with our media printing technologies here in Wollongong, particularly at TRICEP, which is our translational facility.
"The first card for us is actually 3D printed face shields and we've done a few prototypes on that this week."
Dr Wallace is confident that 40 prototype face shields will be delivered to frontline workers by the end of next week. We are confident the design will be finalised by the end of next week and the prototypes will only need tweaking if anything.
"At the same time we will be scaling up to try and produce hundreds of these per week as we move forward."
TRICEP is able to do this because it is working with collaborators here in Wollongong to build its production capacity.
"We are also part of a national network which formed in the last couple of weeks that is looking at combining all of these resources nationally and making sure we are getting the best use out of all of the national capabilities," Dr Wallace said.
He added 3D printing could also do more sophisticated things such as valves for ventilators or splinters for ventilators.
The printing could also create components that could make very simple ventilating machines down the line if need be.
"We, though are very much working on what is needed now," Dr Wallace said.
"The next challenge for us will be whatever challenge the local area health service brings to us, whether that is in the area of valves or splinters for ventilators or other components that they need.
"We are looking at our capacity to do some of these more sophisticated things should that need arise in the coming weeks.
"It has been amazing how people have come together so quickly. That spirit of collaboration across the health service and university is really enabling us to move forward very quickly."
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