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University Develops 3D-Printed Swabs for COVID-19 Test Kits

Innovation at the University of Louisville (UofL) involving multiple departments has led to a promising solution for the shortage of swabs in COVID-19 test kits.

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Innovation at the University of Louisville (UofL) involving multiple departments has led to a promising solution for the shortage of swabs in COVID-19 test kits. In response to a request from the Commonwealth of Kentucky, UofL’s Additive Manufacturing Institute of Science & Technology (AMIST), along with faculty and students in the schools of dentistry, engineering and medicine, have created a 3D-printed swab made of a pliable resin material.

The School of Dentistry operates a 3D print lab used in prosthodontic fabrication of dental implants, crowns and jawbones. 

Gerald “Jerry” T. Grant, DMD, MS, interim assistant dean of advanced technologies and innovation at the School of Dentistry, and associate director at AMIST,  collaborated with business partners Envisiontech on a resin to meet the material requirements for the swab, and NewPro3D to help develop a faster printing time. Grant’s goal is to print 385 swabs per hour and make the manufacturing processes available to companies for large-scale production. 

The swabs were sterilized and tested at the UofL Cardiovascular Innovation Institute, ensuring they could absorb enough solution material to be viable.

Bioengineering students compiled more than 700 COVID-19 test kits, which included biohazard specimen bags, labels, sample vials filled with viral transport media, and commercially available swabs that are in short supply. The kits were immediately sent throughout Kentucky to test individuals for COVID-19.

Clinical trials of the 3D-printed swabs are expected to begin in April. With favorable results, it is anticipated they will be ready for use widely as early as the beginning of May.  

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