As COVID-19 continues to ravage the nation, Americans have found themselves on a new frontier of fear and uncertainty. As experts began to understand the true severity of the virus, dire actions like closing the economy and ordering individuals to stay home in attempt to flatten the curve became warranted.

Americans are still learning how to cope with the brutal effects of this global pandemic, especially when it comes to the economy. Not only have millions of people been laid off from their jobs, but our healthcare system has been overwhelmed, and demand for ventilators and other medical supplies has spiraled.

So the question became, “How can innovation thrive during a crisis?”

Hospitals across the country remain in short supply of items that were previously taken for granted; people are still scheduling their days around shipping delivery hours to buy toilet paper and other household essentials, keeping most isles apocalyptically empty. Everybody always says it comes down to the little things in life, right? Well, innovators realized the truth in that.

First introduced in 1974 by David E. H. Jones, 3D printing has evolved into something that today is capable of creating a three-dimensional object from computer designed plans. Today, 3D printing is an industrial-production technology with an outstanding level of precision, replicability, and ability to stretch across a wide range of mediums.

While individuals in the 3D printing community likely could not produce a fully serviceable ventilator –a highly complex machine composed of hundreds of parts – innovators saw the potential to contribute to the cause and many are now taking advantage of additive manufacturing.

Innovators recognized that wide-scale 3D printing for ventilator parts would maximize the number of medical supplies being sent out and inspire others to act as well by printing items that are scarce: face shields, tube splitters, respirators, oxygen valves, and nasopharyngeal swabs for testing, just to name a few. This has created a chain reaction, causing more people to invest their time and talent in contributing.

With the mobilization of the 3D printing sector expanding, the movement will assist in educating both the creators and medical professionals, from determining efficiency and unit expectations to finding success. Those in the additive manufacturing industry like VHA 3D Printing Network and Stratasys, Engineers at Formlabs Inc., to researchers at Northwell Health and even people from their homes, are all moving quickly to innovate our country out of this crisis.

Leapfrogging production by means of 3D printing would benefit hospitals facing these shortages and give peace of mind to those who are wondering whether or not they’ll be able to receive treatment they require.

It may motivate you to think about other ways in which 3D printing could help. The amount of time we’ve been given while social distancing has encouraged many people to find innovative, creative solutions and send in their designs. Stratasys has invited people to reach out and work alongside government officials, partners, customers and the medical community. With their estimate of 40,000 face shields still being needed weekly, we can witness how the 3D printing has taken initiative.


Written by Andrew Jefferis, Media Coordinator


The Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure (Aii) is an independent, national research and educational organization. An innovative think tank, Aii explores the intersection of economics, law, and public policy in the areas of climate, damage prevention, energy, infrastructure, innovation, technology, and transportation.