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Can 3D Printing Help in the Battle Against Coronavirus?

Trina Mukherjee
·5 mins read

With coronavirus steadily taking the shape of one of the deadliest pandemics in history, the governments across the world are struggling to deal with the outbreak. The viral outbreak has resulted in a biological catastrophe, which has led to a monumental loss of lives with the global death toll at standing at more than 75,000 that includes 12,844 from the United States as of Apr 7. This crisis has hit the U.S. economy hard, leaving investors with the tough job of assessing the impact and aftermath of this financial fallout.

With the number of COVID-19 cases rising with each passing day, there is an urgent demand for critical medical gear. In view of this, under the recently-released CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act, the President has allocated $16 billion out of $27 billion (to the Public Health Social Services Emergency Fund to support the development of vaccines, therapies and diagnostics to treat and prevent COVID-19) to support the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators, and other medical supplies. In spite of these efforts, the nation is still facing a significant supply and demand imbalance for PPE.

Medical Equipment Supply Shortage: 3D Printing to Bridge the Gap

The medical community and the first responders across the United States are still facing an acute shortage of masks, ventilators and other essential medical gear. This, in turn, is putting healthcare workers at a risk of contracting the virus.

The most common equipment shortages include N95 respirator masks, surgical masks, face shields, gowns and gloves. Given the critical supply shortage, some hospitals have been experimenting with non-medical grade gear such as construction respirators, cloth masks and handmade gowns.

Given the dire need of such equipment and products, 3D printers can be utilized to create low-cost medical equipment, thereby reducing the strain on the medical device makers’ supply chains.

The additive manufacturing industry (makers of 3D printers) has already offered support amid the crisis as they have the capability to address shortages of parts related to face shields, masks, and ventilators, among other medical equipment.

SmileDirectClub, Inc. SDC, one of the largest 3D printing manufacturers in the United States, has opened up a 3D printing facility completely dedicated to producing much needed COVID-19 medical supplies. In order to combat this crisis, the company is partnering with medical supply companies and health organizations to produce supplies, including medical face shields and respirator valves.

Also, General Motors GM has partnered with Ventec Life Systems, a medical device company, to ramp up production of ventilators.

FDA’s Stance on 3D Printing

In this regard, we note that, the FDA has made its reservations pretty clear when it comes to the safety and protection offered by 3D printed PPE compared to already authorized, conventional products. However, the FDA, Veteran Affairs Department and National Institutes of Health have already signed a Memorandum of Understanding, based on which they will evaluate designs for 3D-printed PPE and other medical supplies, which includes production and testing of the same, that are crucial to safety of healthcare providers and patients during this health emergency.

Stocks to Watch

Going by the aforementioned discussion, the investors might want to look into the following three stocks that have stepped up to provide support to the medical community during this crisis.

HP Inc. HPQ is focused on delivering 3D-printed components for face masks, face shields, mask adjusters, nasal swabs, hands-free door openers and respirator parts. As of Mar 27, the company has 3D-printed between 5,000 and 10,000 parts in a span of 24 hours.

The Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) stock has an estimated long-term earnings growth rate of 2.2%. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Stratasys, Ltd. SSYS, a global leader in additive manufacturing, has ramped up production of 3D-printed face shields. The company is committed to providing thousands of disposable face shields (this includes both 3D-printed frame and clear plastic shield that covers the entire face) for use by medical personnel. The company set an initial goal of producing 5,000 face shields by Mar 27, at no cost to the recipients.

The Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) stock has an estimated long-term earnings growth rate of 24%.

Ford Motor Company F, an automotive giant, is utilizing its 3D printing factories to produce plastic face shields and parts for PPE. Ford plans to put together more than 10,000 face shields per week.

The Zacks Rank #3 stock has an estimated long-term earnings growth rate of 6.1%.

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