Sioux Falls man uses 3D printer to produce testing swabs

Coronavirus

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Testing is key to returning to normal. Yet some testing supplies, like the swabs to collect a sample from the nose, have been in short supply. The FDA has even eased up restrictions of the production of the medical device so more can be made.’

Now a Sioux Falls man is using his 3D printer to fill the gap for testing swabs.

President Trump said last month that the U.S. was obtaining millions of testing swabs.

“This is what it’s about. Does it remind you of something? Reminds you of this right? One swab, one Q-tip. It’s actually different,” President Trump said on April 19.

Different indeed. The specialized swabs have to be long enough to reach the upper part of the throat, behind the nose. They must be made of synthetic material.

When the University of Nebraska Medical Center Doctor Jesse Cox, saw that his health system was having trouble getting enough of them, he invented his own.

Kennecke: How desperately are these needed? What is the supply like out there?

Dr. Cox: I just know the folks at our hospital are pleased we have options for our swab suppliers, so that’s the need I’m trying to fill.

After Dr. Cox came up with the design and tested them, he needed ways to produce them.

“I’ve just been told these are very difficult to obtain and there is a huge need for them, not only locally, but nationwide,” Olson said.

Mitchell Olson of Sioux Falls put his 3D printer to round-the-clock use, turning out approximately 400 a day.

“That design apparently picks up enough cells in your nasal cavity and they can break it off right here. You can print it so it’s scored to break off and send this into the lab,” Olson said.

Testing swabs from 3D printer

Health systems who want the swabs must use a low-temperature sterilization system on them first.

“If these are critical in testing people and if that’s going to tell us actual numbers, and help us try to get rid of this virus, then I will continue to print them and hope they go to good use,” Olson said.

“Obviously 3D printing isn’t a great long-term solution because it’s very labor intensive. I produced about 7,000 swabs so far, but it’s a round-the-clock process,” Dr. Cox said.

Falls Community Health has obtained some of the swabs from Olson, but says they do not have a shortage of collection swabs.’

Dr. Cox has submitted his design to the University of Nebraska, which is looking for a manufacturer to mass-produce them.

Olson previously used his 3D printer to help make mask clips so that wearing a mask is more comfortable for health care workers and first responders. Along with Southeast Tech’s 3D printers, they distributed 17,000 of them.

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