MONTRAL -- Across Quebec, 3D printing companies are active and working to fight the coronavirus.

They make prototypes of masks and visors; valves; devices for opening doors without using one's hands; and other medical equipment to supply hospitals that fear shortages.

Since Sunday, dozens of Panthera Dental employees in Quebec have been hard at work manufacturing various prototypes of equipment designed to protect caregivers.

“We understand the importance of the thing, something big is happening and we can help,” said Béatrice Robichaud, co-founder of the company specializing in the manufacture of dental medicine products.

Panthera Dental has around twenty 3D printers and as it is well known in the medical community, the company has received many requests related to the pandemic.

“The federal government, the provincial government, hospitals in Quebec, and even hospitals in the United States called us to find out what we could do,” said Robichaud. “What sets us apart from other companies is that we already print medical equipment, so we can create sterilized and reusable products.”

She said she has presented various prototype equipment to medical authorities, and that her company continues to research while waiting to see what type of equipment the authorities will need.

“There is a global shortage of certain medical devices and each country is trying to produce for itself, so we cannot count on the others, we must be able to produce between our walls,” she added.

Public health authorities have also contacted the 3D printing company Fablab to put its printers to work and help doctors.

“We are part of an unofficial group, there is a network that has been formed with doctors and people from public health and we are discussing what is possible to manufacture,” said Fablab production manager Vincent Charlebois.

Voxel Factory, which is located in Montreal, sells professional 3D printers designed for businesses. Sales director Francois Lahey is also in contact with various hospitals.

“There are currently discussions to know what the needs will be. It is important to wait for the authorities to tell us what they want, to properly meet the requirements of the medical staff,” he said, adding that his company is one of the largest suppliers of 3D printers in Canada.

Small businesses that do 3D printing are also in demand. The Eric Paré Photo Studio, which has a single 3D printer, was contacted by a doctor, who wanted to have a visor made to protect herself from the risks of contamination.

“It's a doctor I know, so we printed a prototype and this doctor will present it to the medical staff where she works,” said Christian Dion, an employee at the studio.

The improvised manufacturing of medical equipment involves health risks, but in France and in Italy, companies initiatives which mobilized to 3D print the material had great success. Some of these initiatives play an essential role in the fight against the coronavirus.

The Italian Minister for Technological Innovation Paola Pisano has also congratulated and publicly thanked entrepreneurs who have succeeded in creating respiratory valves thanks to 3D printing.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Mar. 24, 2020.