Unleashing the potential of Additive Manufacturing to fight COVID-19

by David Fleschen

The current COVID-19 outbreak is causing severe shortages of essential medical equipment, particularly in those countries with the most significant number of patients.
The additive manufacturing sector can provide immediate solutions for hospitals experiencing an emergency shortage of critical pieces of equipment.

With the recent “call to action”, CECIMO, the European association for Additive Manufacturing, has been in direct contact with companies who have offered to help in this time of need. However, many of them have pointed out that various regulatory requirements could potentially block their contribution.

“I believe that the additive manufacturing sector could provide immediate solutions to sustain the effort of hospital workers in the middle of this emergency. However, it is in the best interest of all to clarify the regulatory issues in order to move forward quickly and in a way that is not going to delay immediate actions", says Filip Geerts, CECIMO Director General.

Therefore, CECIMO calls upon policymakers to address the following issues:

  • Use government’s official channels to communicate any requests to print parts, upload a list of essential supplies and provide the necessary files for printing to those companies who request them.
  • Temporarily waive the Medical Device and Product Liability Directive requirements that would hamper AM companies’ response to the extraordinary demand of equipment by healthcare sector.
  • Provide temporary authorization to use patents of essential supplies and services without the consent of patent holders.
  • Cooperate closely with the customs authorities to accelerate the approval procedures for imports/ exports of essential supplies and/or 3D Printing Hardware and ensure free flow of essential supplies and/or 3D Printing Hardware within the EU’s internal market.
  • Include the AM sector in the list of the essential value chains that should continue its activities during the lockdown period.
  • Enable a quicker and smoother access to the market of new essential medical and protection equipment, by providing temporary access to certification, in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Furthermore, CECIMO encourages policymakers to:

  • Develop and approve a fast reprogramming of the European structural funds in line with what the was recently approved by the European Parliament. This action should aim to improve the provisioning of the health sector in general and, those sectors such as the AM, especially involved in supplying hospitals and other health institutions.
  • Prioritize the scale-up of the European manufacturers’ capabilities addressing pressing issues such as shortage of components or equipment.

Source: CECIMO, Photo: Fotolia

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