Story at a glance

  • Northwell Health, the University of South Florida Health, and Formlabs worked together to develop new nasal swabs that can be easily 3D printed.
  • The swabs are made of a plastic resin so as not to interfere with the viral genetic material.
  • Northwell Health has begun printing 1,000 to 1,500 nasal swabs a day.

New York’s largest hospital system has developed its own form of coronavirus testing swabs as government-sanctioned test kits suffer delays and COVID-19 cases skyrocket in the state. 

Northwell Health said it has begun manufacturing its own nasal swabs using 3D printing, in partnership with the University of South Florida (USF) Health, and Formlabs, a 3D printing company.

The swabs were tested by USF Health faculty researchers along with Northwell Health professionals in rapid clinical environments and more extensive validation testing at both Northwell Health facilities and Tampa General Hospital. The results proved that the nasal swabs performed equally to standard swab counterparts when testing for COVID-19, the company said.


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The nasal swabs were able to be mass produced with 3D printing technology at Formlabs. Prototypes were reportedly developed in two days and are now available to patients at Northwell Health and USF Health. 

Speaking to Reuters, Todd Goldstein, the lead researcher at Northwell Health 3D Design and Innovation, said that the swabs collect mucous and cell samples to be tested for coronavirus particles.

The swabs are designed with a small brush at the tip of a five-inch wand to capture mucous and cells, as well as a hollow center for fluid collection. 

Goldstein explained that they were designed without cotton or wood so the genetic composure, or the RNA, of sample cells would not be altered. They are made with a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved plastic nylon resin.


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The press release stated that USF Health will be able to add “thousands of swabs a day” to testing kits for patient treatment. Goldstein also added that as of March 29, Northwell Health had begun printing between 1,000 to 1,500 nasal swabs a day. 

Not only will these swabs be provided to Northwell Health patients, we are also proud to be sharing the design with other institutions that can 3D print so that patients across the country can benefit from our work,” he confirmed. 

The FDA prefers viral transport media (VTM) or universal transport media (UTM) for the collection of virus specimens, which are usually taken via nasopharyngeal swabs, or samples taken from the back of the throat. However, the agency also recommends nasal testing for the coronavirus alongside standard nasopharyngeal. 


Published on Mar 31, 2020