OTTAWA -- The visuals from elsewhere in the world were startling.  Hospital workers operating on the frontlines of the COVID-19 battle without proper personal protective equipment.  Watching from Ottawa, Dr. Adnan Sheikh knew it was time to get proactive.

“I started brainstorming with my team, about how to use innovative 3D printing technology to address many of these issues.”

The radiologist and director of the Ottawa Hospital’s 3D printing lab says he reached out to Dr. David Neilipovitz, the Head of the Department of Critical Care at the hospital.

“David is awesome.  He’s a wonderful human being.  And we identified many areas where 3D Printing Lab would be best positioned to help in case of any shortages.”

Since that conversation, the lab has been busy. The 3D printers have churned out oxygen tents, goggles, tube connectors, intubation shields and a number of other devices.

Not all of the material coming out of the lab itself though.  Dr. Sheikh says a group of individuals with 3D printers in their home offered to help.  It was those community printers that manufactured headbands for the vital face shields doctors wear over their masks.

The pivot to printing personal protective equipment marks a major shift for the lab.  The technology is still in its infancy.  Since its inception in 2016 the team has been engaged in a number of key projects, including developing patient-specific 3D anatomical models which helped doctors prepare and rehearse for complex surgeries.  

However, Dr. Sheikh, who co-founded 3D-Lab, says with COVID, everything has changed.

“It’s an innovative technology which has just evolved and it is changing the way we practice medicine.  I think 3D printing has a different role in the medical world.”

And in a changing world, in a COVID era Dr. Sheikh describes as “difficult times” it’s important, he says, to find your own way of coping.  Zen may be the one thing 3D printers can’t produce.

“I started doing meditation and that has really helped me.”