Rapid Response! Investigating the Effects of Problem Definition on the Characteristics of Additively Manufactured Solutions for COVID-19

Rohan Prabhu, Joseph T. Berthel, Jordan S. Masia, Nicholas A. Meisel, Timothy W. Simpson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Designers from around the world have proposed numerous engineering design solutions for problems related to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of which leverage the rapid prototyping and manufacturing capabilities of additive manufacturing (AM). While some of these solutions are motivated by complex and urgent requirements (e.g., face masks), others are motivated by simpler and less urgent needs (e.g., hands-free door openers). Previous research suggests that problem definition influences the creativity of solutions generated for the problem. In this study, we investigate the relationship between the definition of problems related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the characteristics of AM solutions that were openly shared for these problems. Specifically, we analyze 26 AM solutions spanning three categories: (1) hands-free door openers (low complexity problem), (2) face shields (moderate complexity problem), and (3) face masks (high complexity problem). These designs were compared on (1) DfAM utilization, (2) manufacturability (i.e., build time, cost, and material usage), and (3) creativity. We see that the solutions designed for the high complexity problem, i.e., face masks, were least suitable for AM. Moreover, we see that solutions designed for the moderate complexity problem, i.e., face shields, had the lowest build time, build cost, and material consumption. Finally, we observe that the problem definition did not relate to the creativity of the AM solutions. In light of these findings, designers must sufficiently emphasize the AM suitability and manufacturability of their solutions when designing for urgent and complex problems in rapid response situations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number054502
JournalJournal of Mechanical Design, Transactions of the ASME
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design

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