Groups of volunteers across Canada are using 3D printers to produce personal protective equipment and other essential supplies at a breakneck speed — an effort some say could have a lasting impact even after the COVID-19 crisis passes.

These “makers” are volunteering their expertise, time and tools to produce gear used on the front lines of the fight against the pandemic, drawing on open-source designs and creating their own.

Kate Kazlovich, a PhD candidate in biomedical engineering, said she and a group of 3D-printing enthusiasts of varying backgrounds have joined the effort, producing face shields to protect front-line workers, ear guards to make N95 masks more bearable to wear for long periods, and notably, a connector that allows one ventilator to serve two patients.

“What is normally a standard, traditional research project that happens within the hospital walls was taken out and the community was able to contribute,” Kazlovich said.

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While the ventilator connector was designed from the ground up, in partnership with the University Health Network as part of an open-source research project, the team has also worked to improve open-source designs that others have created.

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