Lending a Hand: HP’s 3D Printing Joins the Fight Against COVID-19

You’ve probably seen a lot of HP in the news lately — most recently for its use of 3D print technology to create tools for the fight against COVID-19. Continuing our “lending a hand” series, we talked to Ramon Pastor, acting president of 3D Printing & Digital Manufacturing at HP Inc., and learned about the massive effort HP is mounting to aid the fight.

How is HP using its 3D technologies to help aid COVID-19 response? What types of products are being created?

3D printing has surfaced as a key technology to provide some of the necessary tools in the urgent fight against COVID-19.

As one of the largest 3D printing companies in the world, with significant production capacity and expertise both internally and across our global network of partners and customers, HP has stepped up to fulfill some of the most urgent needs from hospitals and healthcare providers.  Our Multi Jet Fusion technology, the most productive 3D printer in the world, provides fast and scalable access to several of the needed parts hospital operators are urgently asking for both to protect themselves and to treat patients.

Specifically, HP is leveraging the 3D printing capacity of its R&D centers in Barcelona, Spain; Corvallis, Oregon; San Diego, California; and Vancouver, Washington; along with that of dozens of customers and partners around the world through the HP Digital Manufacturing Network to begin the design and production of validated parts.

Initial 3D printed applications being validated and finalized for industrial production include face masks, face shields, mask adjusters, nasal swabs, hands-free door openers, and respirator parts.

Finally, HP is also making many of the 3D design files for the parts (mainly the parts that do not require complex assembly of a final machine) to be freely available so they can be downloaded and produced anywhere in the world.  HP is calling on 3D designers and companies across the industry to submit their innovative designs here.

FFP3 masks
Examples of FFP3 masks developed by research institute CIIRC CVUT and printed with HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing technology.

How did this come about? Was it an internal initiative, or did you receive requests?

Our aim is to use our technology and community to help save lives. 3D printing can help rapidly fill shortages in parts and components for medical devices that have a real impact for medical responders on the front lines.  We also want to mobilize the collective power of our entire industry – from creation of innovative new designs, to the large-scale 3D production of parts – for as long as it takes.  We are fully committed.

HP CEO Enrique Lores also recently published a call to action and an update on HP’s overall perspective to “Help now, plan for the future.” In the piece he provides some background on the personal connection he has to this fight – his sister and brother are both medical doctors working on the front lines in hospitals in Spain.

How is the work being done? 

First, we are working with local government and healthcare to identify parts most in need so we can identify the best way to produce at scale and deliver where they are urgently needed. We cannot do it all so we are relying on our expertise to identify the best way to contribute and scale.

As we look to scale production around the world, we are working directly with partners and customers around the world. From software and design partners like Materialise to production partners across all regions in our Digital Manufacturing Network to large scale production customers like Forecast 3D, Superfeet and SmileDirectClub.

A field ventilator that includes 3D printed parts made with HP Multi Jet Fusion technology.

What is the geographic scale for distribution?

HP and its global network of manufacturing partners and customers are working to ensure that the 3D printed parts are available in any region around the world.  HP is also working with local government and health officials to identify the parts in most urgent need and to ensure they are produced and distributed in a coordinated and efficient manner.

What does production capacity look like, and what type of impact do you hope it may have?

It’s important to understand it is not only about production capacity, but also about the ability to design, test, and validate very quickly and then scale to production. Together HP and its greater partner and customer ecosystem can provide access to hundreds of industrial machines around the world. HP Multi Jet Fusion is the perfectly suited platform for high volume, providing the speed and scale required to manufacture the critical parts hospitals and healthcare providers need to protect themselves and help patients. So far, more than 5,000 parts printed with HP Jet Fusion 3D printers have already been delivered to hospitals.

A 3D printed door handle, designed by Materialise and printed with HP Multi Jet Fusion technology.

Update: Working towards mass production of Covid-19 test swabs

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved single-part 3D printed COVID-19 nasopharyngeal test swabs as Class I medical devices. We are working closely with leading researchers at Harvard’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Stanford University and the University of Washington to test HP-designed and 3D printed swabs to help in the battle against COVID-19. We are advancing fast and expect to begin the mass production of swabs with HP’s industrial-grade Jet Fusion 3D printers very soon.  We plan to use both HP capacity, and that of our global network of digital manufacturing customers and partners, to help meet this urgent need.

We’ll continue to highlight the many industry initiatives who are lending a hand in these times. Email amy@bpomedia.com if you’ve got a story to tell.

is editorial director of BPO Media’s publications Workflow and The Imaging Channel, and senior analyst for BPO Research. As a professional writer and editor, she has specialized in the office technology industry for the last 20 years. Prior to that she worked in public relations and has a master's degree in communication arts.