VHA 3D PRINTING NETWORK
The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) 3D Printing Network Initiative (3D Printing Network), led by Dr. Beth Ripley, MD, Ph.D., is a conduit to share expertise, pool resources, test innovations, and scale 3D printing capabilities across the enterprise. Dr. Ripley’s visionary leadership has resulted in established partnerships and collaborations that have grown the vision and scope of the 3D Printing Network. Initially, Dr. Ripley facilitated a partnership with 3D printing manufacturer Stratasys to pilot a collaborative 3D printing network in five VA hospitals, which she has helped grow to over 25 hospitals. Since then, the Network has grown from three sites in 2017 to 40 sites in 2020.
During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Dr. Ripley and her team—in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—leveraged the 3D Printing Network to fulfill unmet medical supply needs by producing the medical products needed to respond to the pandemic. VHA IE teamed up with FDA, NIH 3D Print Exchange, and America Makes to harness the efforts of makers and engineers around the world who are creating solutions in response to the outbreak—ensuring VHA had the personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing supplies needed by frontline staff caring for Veterans. Rapid Response to COVID-19 using 3D Printing leverages the medical knowledge and public health and safety expertise of VA, FDA, NIH, and America Makes to rapidly evaluate 3D printed solutions that are filling shortfalls in the supply chain. The initiative is using the virtual NIH Print Exchange platform to host a collection of open-source prototypes, resources, and lessons learned that are being shared across the medical community.
Since the launch of the initiative at the end of March 2020, over 617 designs have been published to the NIH Print Exchange website ranging from face masks and ventilator parts to hands-free door opening devices. By August 2020, 741,534 unique visitors had viewed the site and the designs in the collection had garnered 1.58 million views from around the world. VHA Innovation Ecosystem supported design testing and, together with our collaborators, evaluated over 600 prototypes based on American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) testing standards. The initiative will continue testing and expand its reach through the ongoing development of testing protocols and guidance for makers. Partners produced and distributed more than 1 million products through the collaboration.
Dr. Ripley’s ability to team-build and support collaboration has been essential to the success, growth, and adaptability of the 3D Printing Network to fulfill the mission of VHA, as well as respond to the country’s medical supply needs during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Her leadership has been instrumental in the success of several innovative programs that will improve the welfare of Veterans and address known problems in the federal health care system.