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USF leaders: 3D printed swabs for Covid-19 testing set an example for collaboration

Margie Manning



3D printed swabs for use in Covid-19 tests produced by a collaboration between University of South Florida, Tampa General Hospital, Northwell Health and Formlabs

University of South Florida and Tampa General Hospital are part of a collaborative effort to quickly produce a key component for Covid-19 tests.

Facing high demand and a limited supply of the nasal swabs used in the tests, the collaborators successfully produced and tested 3D printed swabs. They will be able to add thousands of  swabs a day to testing kits, said Summer Decker, associate professor in the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and director for 3D clinical applications in USF Health’s Department of Radiology.

“This swab is an example of what can happen when a whole bunch of people have a common purpose and have a common mission and we can put all the boundaries aside of who does what and all work together,” Decker said in a video produced by USF. “That has been the beautiful and positive thing for me in such a terrible situation that we’re in, to be able to see people tear all of that down and actually work together.” (Scroll down to see the video, courtesy of USF.)

The project shows how teams across academia, healthcare and the tech industry can impact human lives, and Dr. Charles Lockwood, senior vice president for USF Health and dean of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.

“During this current COVID-19 outbreak, there is little time for delay, and the swift, agile and adept action of everyone on this effort will greatly improve this nation’s ability to test patients,” Lockwood said.

USF’s 3D clinical applications division created an initial design, and worked with Northwell Health, New York’s largest healthcare provider, and Formlabs, a Somerville, Massachusetts-based company that makes 3D printers, to develop prototypes and secure materials.

In one week, teams developed a nasal swab prototype and tested it in the USF Health and Northwell Health labs. In two days, USF Health and Northwell Health, using Formlabs’ 3D printers and biocompatible, autoclavable resins, developed prototypes. The swabs were tested by clinicians at Northwell Health, USF Health and Tampa General Hospital for patient safety and comfort.

Initial clinical trials at Northwell have been successful, while USF and Tampa General’s clinical trial is ongoing, a spokeswoman for USF said.

USF TGH swabs from St. Pete Catalyst on Vimeo.


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