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UofL engineering student creates design for 3D-printed COVID test swab

Published: Oct. 29, 2020 at 7:05 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - As Louisville continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, several individuals have made monumental contributions to that effort.

Mayor Greg Fischer and University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi recognized the LOU Covid Rapid Response Group, a collection of manufacturers, suppliers, universities, and individuals designing, manufacturing, or 3D-printing PPE for hospital systems in more than 10 states on Thursday.

“There were hundreds of people involved, and I would like to thank every one of them individually for the compassion they displayed during our time of need," Speed School of Engineering professor Ed Tackett said.

UofL senior Justin Gillham is among those in the Rapid Response Group. At his core, Gillham is a builder and in the past seven months, his specialty has become 3D-printing.

“If you can think about it and draw it on a computer you can make it," Gillham said. "This is the new technology. This is the start of a new industrial revolution almost.”

In March, when the pandemic first crept into Louisville, Gillham used his printing prowess to make personal protective equipment, materials like face masks, and shields for those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 battle. Months later, Gillham learned there was a shortage of COVID-19 testing swabs. That’s when the Cardinal made his greatest creation yet.

“Two weeks of design before we had the finished model, and I basically made a new design every two days until we had it,” Gillham said.

Gillham designed the prototype for a 3D-printed test swab, flexible, comfortable, and practical enough to pass through UofL’s clinical trials. From there, Gillham and his professors worked to establish a partnership with companies like Whip Mix and GE Appliances for mass production. Gillham then uploaded his design to a 3D-printing database for anyone with a printer to use.

“This is something that is so necessary right now in the world. It’s painful to think that you could profit off of something that could blatantly help people," Gillham said. "Whether it’s here in Louisville, or anywhere in the United States or anywhere in the world, if they needed this swab and they have the technology to make it, they can do that.”

Gillham told WAVE 3 News he was proud to use his passion to develop something that may end up saving a life.

“This makes a difference in people’s lives," he said. "It affects everybody right now and just to be a part of it at all is an honor.”

Copyright 2020 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.

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