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United Nations Covid-19 Response

Testing a Growing Need

As COVID-19 testing continues to ramp up globally, the need for test swabs continues to stress traditional supply chains. Collaborations between various hospitals, non-profits and 3D printing companies have proved instrumental in filling the void -- a void that is sure to intensify in coming weeks as the flu season adds to the demand for test swabs. 

New York City-based Print Parts Inc., an additive manufacturing service, announced a major milestone, having provided more than one million nasopharyngeal (NP) swabs for use in NYC  COVID-19 test kits.

To manufacture NP swabs, Print Parts opened a dedicated ISO 13485-compliant medical manufacturing lab in Manhattan, in collaboration with NYC Health + Hospitals (H+H), the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, and Collab, a Brooklyn-based fabrication lab.

In early April, recognizing New York's critical need for testing kits, Print Parts began collaborating with NYCEDC to create a local supply chain to support New York City's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a matter of weeks, Print Parts and NYCEDC consulted with medical professionals from various NYC hospitals to validate a 3D printed swab. Print Parts quickly opened a dedicated lab and expanded its additive manufacturing capabilities with the purchase of eight industrial-grade Envision One cDLM 3D printers from EnvisionTEC.

Print Parts is producing NP swabs based on a clinically validated design from EnvisionTEC and Harvard Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston.

COVID-19 testing kits consist of two main components: a collection swab and a tube of viral transport medium (VTM), a liquid that preserves the collected sample while it is transferred to a lab for testing. Albert Einstein College of Medicine produced the VTM based on a recipe from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Collab assembled these components into completed kits for NYC medical facilities.

"We are proud that we were able to quickly scale from our core business of production parts for industrial clients to producing NP swabs for NYC during this crisis," said Robert Haleluk, founder and CEO of Print Parts. "Additive manufacturing has been given a chance to prove its value by rapidly adapting and providing on-demand production to serve as a solution for an unexpected supply chain disruption."

Print Parts was among a group of 12 innovative companies that were supported by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and Empire State Development (ESD) as part of a program to get New York-based manufacturing companies to retool production for COVID-19 critical supplies.

"The response to COVID-19 has been a truly collaborative effort and we thank our partners for accomplishing in a few weeks what would have taken many months using conventional methods," continued Haleluk. "NYCEDC did an amazing job pulling together a group of innovative companies to make these test kits and our own NP swab operation was made possible by a network of overflow partners, logistics and sterilization providers, and equipment vendors who mobilized to support our efforts."

In order to meet the continued demand for test kits, Print Parts is now developing a domestically produced injection-molded NP swab that will allow for high-volume production.

"Additive manufacturing is a great solution for bridging the gap between a sudden market need and the deployment of traditional manufacturing methods," said Haleluk. "Additive manufacturing systems can be rapidly deployed to print parts on demand, with minimal change over time. However, to achieve high volumes and competitive unit economics, a move to injection molding is the logical next step."

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FedEx SenseAware

Time for Tracking to Improve?

Whenever a vaccine is ready for distribution to the global population, its distribution is sure to create an entirely new batch of challenges. Accurate tracking that goes beyond the traditional scanning that many logistics providers leverage will prove instrumental, especially as security concerns surface. 

To combat these challenges FedEx recently announced the launch of SenseAware ID, a lightweight sensor-based logistics device that delivers a new level of precision tracking. The enhanced location visibility provided by this technology will create opportunities for FedEx customers to reimagine their supply chain through real-time updates on a package’s location within the FedEx Express network. SenseAware ID will improve the safety, security and timeliness of deliveries – key attributes for packages that contain critical contents such as life-saving pharmaceuticals and emergency medical supplies.

The detailed location data provided by SenseAware ID is a critical differentiator for healthcare industry customers, and FedEx expects to use this new technology with anticipated COVID-19 vaccine shipments. The rollout of SenseAware ID is well-timed as FedEx continues to move life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for healthcare customers throughout the U.S.

“Package tracking and visibility are more important now than ever, as businesses have become increasingly reliant on timely deliveries,” said Robert B. Carter, executive vice president and chief information officer, FedEx Corporation. “Created by our innovation teams at FedEx, SenseAware ID was designed to give our customers the precise level of tracking they’ve been looking for, enabling them to optimize their supply chains and make any necessary adjustments during the journey of their shipments.”

Sense AwareFedEx SenseAwareFedEx has long been a pioneer in sensor-based logistics, providing advanced tracking of urgent and high value shipments for over a decade through its proprietary SenseAware portfolio. SenseAware ID is the latest innovation in FedEx sensor technology, designed to make sensor-based logistics more accessible to FedEx customers.

SenseAware ID uses a lightweight, compact sensor that transmits precise package location data every two seconds via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to WiFi access points or established gateway devices throughout the FedEx Express network. Packages equipped with the SenseAware ID sensor are tracked hundreds of times versus dozens of times with traditional package scanning protocols, which provides an unprecedented amount of real-time data about the location of the shipment.

As part of the initial roll-out, SenseAware ID sensors are being applied to First Overnight shipments within the U.S. domestic FedEx Express network. An initial round of customers in the healthcare, aerospace and retail industries will receive access to the enhanced data in November 2020. FedEx expects to expand access to this precision location data to additional customers throughout the first half of 2021. SenseAware ID will eventually be made available for a broad range of premium FedEx Express services.

The enhanced package visibility data provided by SenseAware ID will give FedEx healthcare customers the opportunity to closely monitor and proactively protect shipments using additional FedEx healthcare services, including cold-chain storage, thermal blankets and temperature controlled containers. SenseAware ID is expected to play a critical role in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines using the FedEx First Overnight service, helping ensure these sensitive shipments are delivered quickly and safely.