UT Dallas Uses 3D Printer to Make Ventilator Valves, Testing Swabs, Protective Equipment

Teams at UT Dallas have 3D printed positive end-expiratory pressure valves, and they are working to make other necessary equipment

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Researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas are 3D printing equipment to help address potential supply shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to UT Dallas, researchers have 3D-printed a ventilator part, and they are working to manufacture testing swabs and personal protective equipment in a campus lab.

The valves are called positive end-expiratory pressure valves, also known as "PEEP" valves. They are disposable parts used inside ventilators to ensure that a patient's lungs retain some air and do not collapse when exhaling.

A new valve is needed for each patient, according to Dr. Walter Voit.

"Across the board, my faculty colleagues are doing wonderful things in trying to reduce fear, to help calm, to help scientifically understand what’s actually happening," Voit told NBC 5. "In this case, we’ve used 3-D printing to help produce key medical components that we hope will help take care of COVID patients and others."

UT Dallas researchers began developing the valves in March to address concerns about shortages of ventilators during COVID-19 pandemic.

When it comes to 3D-printing medical devices, Voit described it as a complex process. The effort has involved more than 100 people.

"Our kind of 3D printing uses Texas Instruments DLP chips – the little micro mirrors you see in a movie theater," he explained. "So, imagine an IMAX projector shining down in a very small area, you have millions of pixels. Where the light hits, the resin hardens. Where it doesn’t, the resin stays soft. Layer by layer, we’re rapidly turning on and off these mirrors up to 60,000 times a second to cure a complex 3D structure."

Though they are seeking FDA approval, Voit said the best case scenario is they don't have to use them at all.

"As society has looked at different rates of infection, different flattening’s of the curve, we want to make sure that Texas and Dallas and the country can be prepared with critical medical components," he said.

Voit said they are hoping to be approved in the coming days.

*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.

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