Combating the COVID-19 Pandemic Using 3D Printed PPE: Challenges and Recommendations

Amaar Amir1, *, Baraa Amir1
1 Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University, Dammam, Saudi Arabia

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© 2022 Amir and Amir.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University, Dammam, Saudi Arabia; Te: 00966541248025, E-mail:



The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March of 2020. As traditional respiratory personal protective equipment (PPE) was in severe shortage, communities turned to 3D printing to provide printed PPE alternatives; however, certain hurdles need to be addressed to ensure the safety of users.


One main consideration when dealing with 3D printed parts is the presence of pores. Several studies have found the diameter of these pores to range widely from as little as 10µm to over 150 µm, making them larger than the droplets and nuclei through which the virus is transmitted.


Researchers found that altering print settings, such as increasing the extrusion multiplier, may decrease the size and number of these perforating pores. Other challenges include the variable reproducibility of printed PPE, which may be remedied through printer calibration. Storage and sterilization are also a challenge as most 3D printed plastics do not tolerate disinfection methods, such as autoclaves. The use of chemical disinfectants is recommended instead. The rigidity of printed plastics may compromise the fit of masks for varying users. Using 3D scanning may provide personalized masks that seal appropriately.


One final issue is the prolonged interaction with 3D printers of inexperienced users, predisposing them to the respiratory tract and skin irritation; thus, adequate ventilation and protection are mandatory.


Documenting the benefits and drawbacks of this form of PPE production carries great significance in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as well as any future public health emergencies.

Keywords: 3D printing, COVID-19, Personal protective equipment, Surgical mask, N95 mask, Face shield.