Community-Driven PPE Production using Additive Manufacturing During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Survey and Lessons Learned

Published in Journal of Manufacturing Systems, 2021

Recommended citation: H.D. Budinoff, J. Bushra, and M. Shafae. "Community-Driven PPE Production using Additive Manufacturing During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Survey and Lessons Learned" Journal of Manufacturing Systems.

Download preprint here

Abstract: This study presents a detailed analysis of the production efforts for personal protective equipment in makerspaces and informal production spaces (i.e., community-driven efforts) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. The focus of this study is on additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing), which was the dominant manufacturing method employed in these production efforts. Production details from a variety of informal production efforts were systematically analyzed to quantify the scale and efficiency of different efforts. Data for this analysis was primarily drawn from detailed survey data from 74 individuals who participated in these different production efforts, as well as from a systematic review of 145 publicly available news stories. This rich dataset enables a comprehensive summary of the community-driven production efforts, with detailed and quantitative comparisons of different efforts. In this study, factors that influenced production efficiency and success were investigated, including choice of PPE designs, production logistics, and additive manufacturing processes employed by makerspaces and universities. From this investigation, several themes emerged including challenges associated with matching production rates to demand, production methods with vastly different production rates, inefficient production due to slow build times and high scrap rates, and difficulty obtaining necessary feedstocks. Despite these challenges, nearly every maker involved in these production efforts categorized their response as successful. Lessons learned and themes derived from this systematic study of these results are compiled and presented to help inform better practices for future community-driven use of additive manufacturing, especially in response to emergencies.