MELBOURNE (Reuters) – At an outer suburban manufacturing plant, engineer Byron Kennedy is resetting a machine to spray-print a layer of copper on to a door handle, aiming to use the metal’s antiviral properties to counter the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.
His firm Spee3D is better known as a producer of 3D printers for copper and aluminium, used by customers including the Australian defence force and U.S. Marines to rapidly print new parts to get broken equipment back in action without waiting days for spares to arrive.
“Up until the end of last year, our business was building the 3D printers, which were then used to build parts,” Spee3D co-founder Kennedy told Reuters. “Come 2020, and the epidemic hits. We know about the antimicrobial properties of copper, so we thought ‘Can we do something, can we help out here?’”
Copper’s disinfectant powers have long been known and its antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties have been supported by scientific studies. Spee3D commissioned Melbourne laboratory 360biolabs to look at how SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, reacts to copper surfaces.
The results showed that 96% of the virus was killed off in two hours and 99.2% in 5 hours, compared to no change on stainless steel surfaces over the same period, Kennedy said.