SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — Texas State University is using two 3D printers to help produce swabs for COVID-19 tests.
According to a press release, the City of Austin approached the university to get involved and says right now, “the primary bottleneck to increase testing capabilities in Texas as well as the U.S. is the lack of testing swab availability. As the COVID-19 pandemic becomes more widespread, manufacturing has not been able to keep up with demand.”
“According to the State of Texas, Texas needs around 50,000 swabs per day for the next three months to actually be able to do the required testing to open or to get back to business as usual,” says Juan Gomez, a scientific instrument technician inTexas State’s physics department.
So Gomez and his team came up with a prototype swab that could be printed– no cotton, just small, plastic grooves.
Once it was approved by a medical laboratory company, they started production.
“Before, they were mainly just used for research purposes for random just prototyping, creating small pieces,” Matt Candelas says of the physics department’s two 3D printers.
Candelas is a Texas State Graduate research assistant currently working on the swab project.
Their first batch of 7,000 swabs went out on Friday.
Some local health facilities have seen a drastic increase in COVID-19 testing.
“We would get maybe five to eight a day now we’re getting anywhere from 50 to 70 to almost 100 a day. And that’s just the one site. And so we have four other sites that are seeing similar numbers,” says Dr. Robert Barnwell, medical director for Premier ER and Urgent Care.
Dr. Barnwell says his facilities have been able to stay ahead of the demand, so far, but the increase in supply will help the medical world keep up as the state reopens.
“We’re seeing a big push to get these workers back back to the workforce. And a lot of times it’s using testing order to do that,” he says.
It’s not the job Gomez signed up for– but it’s one he’s glad to do.
“It’s not about if you saw yourself doing this but how you react,” Gomez says.
Texas State’s engineering and physics departments are also partnering with the University of Texas’ College of Pharmacy.
After printing, the swabs will be sent to a company in Illinois for sterilizing and packaging and then sent to the Texas Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas for distribution.