Open access hardware & 3D printing can help tackle demand for health supplies

April 27, 2020

Free open source hardware and 3D printing could help to alleviate the burden of Covid-19 on global health systems, according to scientists at the University of Sussex.

Free and open source hardware (FOSH) follows an ethos where blueprints for a tool are made freely available so that anyone can study, learn, modify, customize and commercialize them.

In a study published by PLoS Biology, Professor Tom Baden and Andre Chagas at the University of Sussex have suggested that this could be a viable option to provide our health services with the tools and equipment they so desperately need.

The study provides an overview of the blueprints which are currently available for free online and which could be used to help in the fight against coronavirus, focusing on personal protective equipment, ventilators and test kits.

Although some of the designs still need to be tested, many others have already received suitable verification, having been published in peer reviewed papers. The authors therefore believe that FOSH should be seriously considered as a method of quickly providing equipment where it's needed.

Tom Baden, Professor of Neuroscience, said: "Now is the time that Open Hardware could really shine and it's so important that we get on board quickly.

"Previous studies and experiences have shown that free and open source hardware is a brilliant option in disaster situations. Designs can be shared globally, it has typically lower implementation costs than mass manufacturing and it can be easily adapted to meet local resources.

"But the real power - and the way this could really help to tackle Covid-19 - is that once a tool has been designed and tested, anyone can build it. This bypasses the traditional manufacturing and distribution routes and means that it can become a community driven endeavour where anyone with the capacity to do so can help to produce much-needed equipment and supplies for the healthcare services.

"Anyone with the necessary knowhow, tools and time can build on this knowledge to meaningfully support their community. At a time when global health systems are facing immense pressure and becoming increasingly overburdened, we need a response not just from frontline workers such as medical staff and scientists, but from skilled members of the public who have the time, facilities and knowledge to meaningfully contribute."

The paper describes existing FOSH designs from simple tools like DIY facemasks to 3D printed valves which can regulate airflow in ventilator tubes. Others are far more complex including state-of-the-art scientific instruments for diagnosis, such as an automated pipetting robot, plate readers and a range of other medical tools and supplies.

Some blueprints are already being used to provide support to the NHS. A company in Portslade which produce face visors have recently removed their patent and license and asked for support from anyone with a 3D printer in order to produce more to meet demand and provide protection to NHS staff.

But for those unverified designs, testing and approval can be a lengthy process.

Andre Chagas said: "One thing governments could do right now, is to figure out a process in which we can legitimately fast track the testing and certification of tools which are in short supply."

"For instance, in Spain a group is already testing their ventilator designs with support from the government. While each country will have different rules and certifications to meet, this is a crucial moment for us to get together and figure out a single set of certification so that implementation can move faster."

Prof. Tom Baden added: "If governments can support this through financial support to ramp up production of the best tools, that would be incredibly useful right now.

"But asides from financial support, we also need support from those who actually know about the use of these tools, rather than just their design. To make this equipment properly and safely, we don't just need tech-savvy people building it. We need people in the healthcare sector who know how these tools should work and can actually test them. These people should contact ongoing products to see if they can help."

A team at the University of Sussex team recently finished creating 100 face shields which are to be tested within the NHS. Once the design is approved the University will launch a full-scale production operation, hoping to produce 1000 face shields a day by early May.

University of Sussex

Related Financial Support Articles from Brightsurf:

Greater financial integration generally not associated with better healthcare quality
New findings from a Dartmouth-led study, published in the August issue of Health Affairs, show that larger, more integrated healthcare systems do not generally deliver better quality care, and that there is significant variation in quality scores across hospitals and physician practices, regardless of whether they are independent or owned by larger systems.

COVID-19: Pandemic behavior change, financial support and better data collection needed
New research and guidance in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, published by Elsevier, focus on critical topics pertaining to community and individual health during the COVID-19 epidemic.

Cancer survivors' experiences with financial toxicity
A recent Psycho-Oncology analysis of published studies found that few cancer survivors received financial information support from healthcare facilities during their initial treatment, even though cancer-related financial toxicity has multiple impacts on survivors' health and quality of life.

What helps couples weather financial storms
In financially challenging times, it's especially important to show your partner love and support, says researcher Ashley LeBaron, who studied what contributes to couples' success in financially stressful times.

Financial pressure makes CFOs less likely to blow the whistle
A recent study finds that corporate financial managers do a great job of detecting signs of potential fraud, but are less likely to voice these concerns externally when their company is under pressure to meet a financial target.

Biodiversity yields financial returns
Farmers could increase their revenues by increasing biodiversity on their land.

American cancer survivors face substantial financial hardship and financial sacrifices
American cancer survivors, particularly those 64 years or younger, faced substantial medical financial hardship and sacrifices in spending, savings, or living situation, according to data from a survey.

'Financial infidelity': What defines it, who is at risk, and what are the consequences?
Romantic partners aren't always honest about money in their relationships, but when does hiding purchases, debt and savings constitute 'financial infidelity'?

Financial therapy can aid well-being, stability
Financial therapy could help couples navigate disagreements, money concerns and financial conflicts before these issues tear relationships apart.

How religion can heighten or help with financial stress
Researchers found that some people experience financial stress due, in part, to their religion's demands on their time and money.

Read More: Financial Support News and Financial Support Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to