A picture of two people wearing 3D printed PPE. On the left is a face shield (42.2% of submissions) and on the right a facemask (28.4% of submissions).

Rapid Convergence: The Outcomes of Making PPE during a Healthcare Crisis

Kelly Avery MackMegan HofmannUdaya LakshmiJerry CaoNayha AuradkarRosa I. ArriagaScott E. HudsonJennifer Mankoff. Rapid Convergence: The Outcomes of Making PPE During a Healthcare Crisis. [Link to the paper]

The U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH) 3D Print Exchange is a public, open-source repository for 3D printable medical device designs with contributions from clinicians, expert-amateur makers, and people from industry and academia. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NIH formed a collection to foster submissions of low-cost, locally-manufacturable personal protective equipment (PPE). We evaluated the 623 submissions in this collection to understand: what makers contributed, how they were made, who made them, and key characteristics of their designs. We found an immediate design convergence to manufacturing-focused remixes of a few initial designs affiliated with NIH partners and major for-profit groups. The NIH worked to review safe, effective designs but was overloaded by manufacturing-focused design adaptations. Our work contributes insights into: the outcomes of distributed, community-based medical making; the features that the community accepted as “safe” making; and how platforms can support regulated maker activities in high-risk domains.

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