Success story PP·3D & Covid-19

Recreus interviews [artefactos]

“With the PP·3D filament from Recreus we fulfilled all the premises set forth. We achieved an adjustment in the mechanical connection, the necessary sealing and ensured non-permeability. In addition to allowing sterilization in an autoclave.”

#Skuba and #splitter projects, 3D printed solutions with our PP·3D polypropylene filament against Covid-19 crisis.

[artefactos] is a multidisciplinary collective design and development social project, spin off of the University of Alicante, that seeks to generate alternative and accessible solutions of assistive technologies, in functional diversity, to improve the autonomy and quality of life of people. They work with additive manufacturing, which offers them the ability to personalize to generate exclusive designs with a social component, in which the user is the center of all development processes.

In the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, it couldn’t be any other way, and this great team got down to work on solutions and adaptations to help the health personnel. Projects (#skuba and #splitter) in which we had the pleasure of collaborating with them, and in which our new PP·3D polypropylene filament was the protagonist, accelerating its launch due to conjunctural need and becoming a success story.

We talk to  them to tell us about the process, the experience and, most importantly, what ‘learnings’ they have been able to draw from all this that help and contribute to the industry in general.

“We needed fast, efficient, safe and reproducible solutions with maximum accessibility. Even with industrial scalability.”

How did the idea arise in [artifactos] to get to work with the solutions #skuba (adapter for sanitary protection emergency mask) and #splitter (adaptation to optimally divide a pulmonary ventilation circuit for two patients) before the health emergency situation for the Covid-19?

With all the accumulated “know-how”, as well as the network of collaborators, we felt as our responsibility to help the health personnel from the first day. The first thing we did was to get in contact with collaborating doctors from the University General Hospital of Alicante and directly find out their need.

Practically around the clock we had to investigate, contrast, decide, redirect … everything in a matter of hours, and making it compatible with our daily work. The first few days we held conversations with the regional ministries, public and private entities, with diverse working groups, even with other communities.

It seems that you were clear …

What was clear to us is that fast, efficient, safe, reproducible and maximum accessibility solutions were needed, possibly even industrial scalability. With our experience as problem solvers, three days after the declaration of the State of Alarm in Spain, we already had the first prototype [#skuba] printed and with the active collaboration of companies and public entities in the development of the project.

How did you coordinate to get so much work out so quickly?

Non-stop! The team seemed not to rest. Telematically, we held continuous discussions on technical issues and discussions of test results. With this, and having transferred needs from other hospitals, such as the ’12 de Octubre’ in Madrid or the ‘Hospital de Albacete’, the verification test of [#splitter] was carried out in sanitary ventilation equipment, with excellent results, while it tested [#skuba] ‘s response to the autoclave.

What has the development and creation process been like for both solutions, #skuba and #splitter?

The investigation phase was more than intense, but fundamental. What could be a solution in the morning, at night, had to be readjusted and considered again. Different possible scenarios were analyzed, marking two possible paths: additive manufacturing and its industrial scalability. Following various tests and trials, geometric adjustments, optimization of design for printing, analysis with the use of various filaments, resistance to sterilization and autoclaving. Seeking that the devices offer the greatest possible durability and reliability, taking into account the delicate function to be performed. We even published several communications in parallel with recommendations regarding responsibility for the use of 3D printing, given that we observed with stupor certain unprofessional actions and a lot of misinformation.

The designs were refined and generated trial after trial, while within the team we diversified efforts: development management, testing, scalability preparation, certification testing, etc.

Who has collaborated? 

There were companies that proposed and contributed, but from the beginning and throughout the process we collaborated with Recreus, Suavinex and various physicians for the development of both solutions.

The University of Alicante offered its responsible social support in the distribution by the region of the [#skuba] and of material among the team members with the printers running. AIJU offered its help and support in the manufacturing test of some models and Decathlon provided their masks following our call on the first Monday of a pandemic. Fundación SEUR helped us with shipments outside the province. As you can see, we have met the proposed objectives without external financial support, but with totally altruistic collaboration.

“Having Recreus in the project team has been essential, providing in-depth knowledge of the behavior of the PP·3D filament with which the [#skuba] and [#splitter] adapters are manufactured.”

What has Recreus contributed to this project?

Having Recreus in the project team has been fundamental, in-depth knowledge of the behavior of the PP·3D filament with which the adapters [#skuba] and [#splitter] are manufactured, has allowed us to avoid errors in design, minimize time and reach to cover the response of the users assuring and guaranteeing from the responsibility of the created solutions.

Why have you selected Recreus PP·3D as material for these solutions?

Among other reasons, to ensure the non-permeability of the virus, one of the most critical points of these applications. The virus is extremely small, and that was one of the top concerns during the design and development process for both [#skuba] and [#splitter]. Especially for the mask [#skuba], since it was going to be used to avoid contagion from health personnel. Keep in mind that most materials printed by different methods can result in porous pieces, not with the naked eye, but with a larger pore size than the coronavirus itself. And with PP·3D we ensured non-permeability.

What other advantages and contributions does this material have for the pieces of both projects?

Apart from being a material to achieve the non-permeability of the virus, it was also important to achieve a great tightness in the union or connection with the mask itself and the filters. We had to achieve this in the fewest number of parts possible and with an optimized geometry that withstand autoclave temperatures without deformation. For this reason, with Recreus PP·3D filament we fulfilled all the stated premises. We achieve a fit in the mechanical joint, even better than with flexible materials, we achieve the necessary tightness and ensure non-permeability. In addition, it allows intense sterilization in order to disinfect the material by autoclaving.

 “With the PP·3D filament from Recreus we were pleasantly surprised, as we discovered in it characteristics that other thermoplastic filaments did not offer us.”

What potential do you see in the material? 

The team has in-depth knowledge of conventional polymer manufacturing as well as prototyping technology. In fact, many of the functional prototypes we work with are based on PLA or PU, depending on the technical needs and final functional effect. With the PP·3D filament from Recreus we were pleasantly surprised, because we discovered in it characteristics that other thermoplastic filaments did not offer us.

Are you applying it to other types of projects?

Yes. In fact, at the moment we have already successfully implemented it in some adaptations for rehabilitation with video games. These types of devices suffer greatly from the way this decentralized repetition of pressure is executed, and surprisingly, after intense hours of training, the system still does not deform with Recreus PP·3D material.

In addition, we are testing it in anti-spastic splints in the upper limb and, so far, with good results. It presents a recovery capacity to slow but adequate flexion and good resistance. On the other hand, its surface finish is less rough than PLA, making it more user-friendly, which is a good advantage.

“It presents a recovery capacity to slow but adequate flexion and good resistance. On the other hand, its surface finish is less rough than PLA, making it more user-friendly, which is a good advantage.”

What conclusions or learnings would you highlight from all this?

It is true that the project was tremendously intense, in a complex context and different from the usual ways of working. But its development has been very enriching. An experience in which we have joined forces between different groups, which normally use different languages, focusing on solutions that favor society.

I consider that it has been a pleasure for everyone to participate in this adventure. However, and due to the requirement of common sense, this crisis may be the opportunity to change the economic and productive model towards a model based on sustainability. Although it is true that we still have a lot of humanization to do, because despite the urgency of working shoulder to shoulder, we continue to observe competencies and rivalries that do not fit in the delicate moments we are experiencing.

What we are very proud of is having managed to surround ourselves with extraordinary people, each with a different origin and profile (company, university, public institution, anonymous people …), but with much to contribute, both on a human and professional level.

Great people with whom we are sure that we have strengthened ties, and with whom we can continue learning, researching, developing and improving the world.

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