Limbitless Solutions, a direct support organization for the University of Central Florida (UCF), announced on Tuesday that it has started 3D printing components of face shields health care workers and first-responders responding to the COVID-19 need.
The non-profit, established in 2014, empowers confidence in children and increases accessibility for those in the limb difference community by manufacturing personalized 3D printed bionic arms. The organization’s lab on the UCF main campus produces these arms currently being evaluated in clinical trials, but in light of the pandemic has shifted its operations to join a national coalition working to provide protective equipment to those who need it most.
“We are honored to be a small part of a network committed to supporting our medical community,” said Dr. Albert Manero, the CEO and co-founder of Limbitless Solutions. “They are the real heroes, serving the community selflessly.”
Limbitless connected with Stratasys, the 3D printer company that created the coalition. Stratasys is working with multiple hospitals and organizations nationwide. The company had optimized the design for the machines available, so the pivot to shift operations temporarily was able to be done quickly.
On March 26, two Limbitless staff began producing visors, a component of the disposable face shield used by many medical workers. They plan to produce 100 plus visors per week. Each visor will feature one of four special messages: “hope,” “compassion,” “love” or “we thank you.”
“The messages are meant to thank and pay tribute to those doing life-saving work during the pandemic,” said Manero. “We have reduced operations in the lab to promote social distancing and to abide by Orange County’s stay at home order. We knew we could still be part of helping our community. We will continue to work safely during this challenging and disruptive time, continuing to support our bionic kids, our team, and those who are directly impacted by the virus.”
Limbitless is participating as a “remote production site” by 3D-printing a piece of the face shield for final assembly and distribution by Stratasys. The disposable face shields are described as a “consumer barrier product,” not Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) or a medical device. These shields are in high demand with the coalition already receiving requests for more than 300,000 from medical providers. The face shields, unlike masks or respirators, provide a physical barrier, but not a fluid or air filtration, barrier for the medical staff.
Once the components are printed, a delivery company will pick up the boxes following social distancing protocols and healthcare guidelines and transport them to another location for assembly and final distribution. The entire coalition looks to deliver an initial 5,000 shields to critical need locations nationwide over the next week.
“Limbitless was founded when a community need intersected with our capabilities,” said Dominique Courbin, the director of production and a co-founder of Limbitless Solutions. “Even when we didn’t know ‘how’, it was never a question ‘if’ we would help. We hope to use that same spirit to support those who serve now.”
Stratasys has set up a web page where organizations can request 3D printed products to help with the crisis, offer 3D printing capacity or request 3D printers or material for medical or safety related purposes.
In July, Limbitless announced a partnership with Stratasys to support the organization’s bionics research and development.
“In these unpredictable times, the team is grateful for the opportunity to help create #3DHope for the global community and the medical professionals,” Manero said.