Hardship Breeds Innovation
April 04, 2020
By David Sumner
The COVID-19 pandemic may turn out to be a challenge the likes of which haven’t been seen since the world wars of the 20th Century. The impact to the global economy and the unprecedented stress on affected countries’ health care systems will be felt for years and will also guide policy decisions going forward once the immediate impact of the disease abates.
However, adversity seems to bring out the best in the human race as well. From the acts of kindness for those directly impacted by the virus to technological innovation, the global community will adapt, evolve and improve its preparedness for future outbreaks. The same process that drove the technological advances that occurred during the crises of the 20th Century may already be evidenced in the global reaction to the current pandemic. There are many examples of technological innovations being developed and brought to market quickly to help meet the unique needs of the current pandemic.
The manufacturing process of additive manufacturing (a.k.a. 3D printing) is not standing on the sidelines and, like other areas, is finding ways to create new solutions for current problems facing our governments and our healthcare system. Just a few examples include:
- 3D printed face masks and shields for medics to make up for current shortages of medical equipment.
- A design for a door opener that enables you to open a door without using your hand is available for free download to anyone with access to a 3D printer.
- 3D printed isolation wards for patients
- Ventilator valves and adapters to convert snorkel masks into face shields
Even large automobile manufacturers like VW with industrial 3D printers are joining the effort to produce the medical equipment needed by that those hardest hit by the virus.
If the news or our social distancing is making you depressed, search out the good that is happening all around us as we band together to emerge from this threat. While much of the world is on lockdown, innovation is still thriving and the human drive to innovate and to help each other is alive and well. We may see a great technological leap as a result of today’s radical thinkers just like spaceflight, computers and radar were all outgrowths of technologies developed during WWII.