Company Prints First 3D PPE Samantha Himes

Company Prints First 3D PPE

We all love the phrase, “It’s like printing money.” But what about printing PPE?

Wouldn’t it be great if you had the ability to stock just about every style, size and color of every type of personal protective equipment (PPE) available on the market? You’d never run out of earplugs or safety glasses again.

Autodesk's Ember 3D stereo lithography 3D printer is displayed at the 2015 International CES at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nev. The printer uses the Spark open 3D printing platform and a UV curable resin that hardens with light and will be available later this year for $5,995. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Inventor and entrepreneur Bi Sheng is counting on the safety market’s emphasis on well-fitting, comfortable and stylish PPE when he launches his new company later this month.

PP3D offers printers that utilize 3D printing technology, a process that creates three-dimensional, solid objects from a digital file. The 3D object – in this case, safety eyewear or ear plugs – is created by laying down layers of material until the desired object is created. The process utilizes a virtual design, created using a CAD (computer-aided design) file and a 3D modeling program.

As 3DPrinting.com explains it: “To prepare the digital file created in a 3D modeling program for printing, the software slices the final model into hundreds or thousands of horizontal layers. When this prepared file is uploaded in the 3D printer, the printer creates the object layer by layer. The 3D printer reads every slice (or 2D image) and proceeds to create the object blending each layer together with no sign of the layering visible, resulting in one, three-dimensional object.”

Bi Sheng, a Chinese inventor, said that PP3D currently is configuring its technology to “print” 20 different styles of frames for safety glasses, with five different types of lenses, including sunglasses. Sizes range from XXS for women to XXL for large men. The frames can be printed in any color or combination of colors. Printed earplugs, the other type of PPE currently offered by PP3D, come in a variety of styles and colors.

“Workers like options,” said the taciturn inventor. “This is as close as they can come to designing their own safety equipment.”

Depending on the success of the safety eyewear and earplugs, Sheng plans to expand his line to include gloves and hard hats.

(Although 3D-printed safety products might not be that far off, we don't have them yet. Happy April Fool's Day!)

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