An Aussie COVID-19 killer

AUSTRALIAN metal-based additive manufacturing technology supplier SPEE3D has developed a fast and affordable way to 3D print anti-microbial copper onto metal surfaces, with tests showing touch surfaces modified by this process can contact kill 96% of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in just two hours.

 SPEE3D's 3D printer

SPEE3D's 3D printer

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With studies showing SARS-CoV-2 can survive on traditional surfaces such as stainless steel and plastic for up to three days, SPEE3D has modified its 3D printing technology to allow existing metal parts to be coated with copper.

The SPEE3D process is called ACTIVAT3D copper and makes use of the red metal's natural ability to eradicate bacteria, yeasts and viruses.

Passengers going through the airport in Santiago, Chile will be familiar with the signs on columns in the arrivals area telling of how the room has been treated with anti-bacterial copper.

What SPEE3D is doing is applying copper's anti-bacterial properties to a range of household surfaces.

SPEE3D's 3D printers use a cold spray process to accelerate powder particles within a supersonic air jet that deform and bond onto surfaces to build up a coating and eventually a 3D object.

The process was tested on live SARS-CoV-2 by 360Biolabs in a physical containment 3 laboratory, with 96% of the virus killed in two hours and 99.2% killed in 5 hours. Stainless steel showed no reduction in the same time frame.

SPEE3D's process can coat stainless-steel door touch plates and other handles in just five minutes.

Digital print files of the process have been sent to partners around the world, with copper fixtures installed in buildings at Charles Darwin University in Darwin, Swinburne University in Melbourne, the University of Delaware in the US and in Japan.

University of Delaware assistant director of digital design and additive manufacturing Larry Holmes said recognising supply chain shortfalls over the past couple of months, it was clear to the team  fabrication speed was a priority.

He said using ACTIVAT3D copper allowed for the rapid transition of safe options for high-touch surfaces.

With testing under its belt SPEE3D hopes to use the technique to coat common-touch things such as door handles, rails and touch plates in hospitals, schools and other public places.

SPEE3D CEO Byron Kennedy said lab results show ACTIVAT3D copper surfaces behave much better than traditional stainless, which may offer a promising solution to a global problem.

He said the technology can be used in hospitals, schools, on ships or at shopping centres.

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