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How YOU & 3D Printing Can Help against COVID-19: Awareness
by Dany Sánchez of MiniWorld 3D
The magnitude of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is such that it has affected all activities—including 3D printing. Large-scale emergencies bring out the best and the worst of people, and we can see some examples for both directly in the 3D printing community. The goal of this article is to spread awareness of some bad practices appearing in the internet regarding 3D printing, and to remind you of the responsibility we hold as makers with a huge audience via digital platforms.
Wanting to do Good
First, let's recognize good efforts and think about their consequences. You have probably seen the news about the Italian enthusiasts who 3D printed valves for their local hospital as a response to a shortage. Another great effort is the appearance of 3D printable filter masks. Both of these examples feature 3D printing as a home-made solution for filling-in for the lacking of an actual, professional product. While noble and remarkable, we must be aware of the complete story. The Italian enthusiasts infringed intellectual property by reproducing a patent-protected product. The majority of mask designs DO NOT stop the virus and in some cases could even do more harm than help.
We love 3D printing, and we want more people to know about it and like it as we do. This may lead us to try to show everyone on social media how cool and serious 3D printing is:
See? I not only print toys—I'M SAVING LIVES!
The reality is that we are not. I urge you to be responsible and realize that 3D printing is a hobby for most of us. It helps us create low-cost objects by ourselves, in our homes or offices. We are not qualified, supplied, and trained to produce the medical-grade objects that hospitals use. Remember that all these files are alternatives, good intentions, not actual solutions. Most of the creators of these 3D printable masks add disclaimers saying so, but some don't. The impact of our actions spread just like the virus! Think of the consequences of a simple Instagram photo or Tic-toc. You saw someone printing a mask, and thought "I will print one too!", and you repeat the cycle.
Unintentional or not, the goal of most people printing masks is to show off. To say: "See? I not only print toys—I'M SAVING LIVES!", "I can do better than masks from the store" "I'm different", "I'm doing something".
As with the spread of the virus itself; fear, misinformation, recklessness, and overconfidence are harmful. Some people see this as an opportunity to profit. They prey on the fear and lack of information to increase sales, views, visits, likes, downloads, etc. This different from wanting to help and offering files that are meant to be an alternative. This is intentionally misleading people into getting their files/product as a real solution. Simply, DO NOT DO THIS. If you see it, stay away. Do not encourage this practice. Read descriptions, they must have all the info and disclaimers.
Hope this article stirred your mind. If it made you a bit uncomfortable, that's ok. We all are guilty of some of this. The best we can do to truly help is be aware and give 3D printing the place it has in all of this, not more, not less.
I'd like to read your questions or comments here, or on my twitter @ldibarra