As COVID-19 surges, 3D printing is having a moment

COVID-19 will be remembered for many things — most undoubtedly negative. There are, however, some silver linings among the horrors of the deadliest pandemic in recent memory. Among them, if the sort of human ingenuity that shines whenever the world is faced with a similar crisis.

The simple truth of the matter is the world wasn’t prepared for a virus of this magnitude. It’s something that’s played out in country after country, as the novel coronavirus has continued to devastate communities across borders.

In spite of early warning signs, many nations — the U.S. certainly included — were caught off-guard, lacking the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and other necessities required to battle the virus for a prolonged stretch. For many, taking on COVID-19 has required improvisation and resourcefulness — both, thankfully, qualities found in good volumes among the maker community that helped give rise to 3D printing technology.

If you’ve followed the technology even in passing over the last decade, you’re no doubt aware how much time evangelists spend justifying the usefulness of 3D printing beyond the the confines of desktop hobbyists. The defensiveness is certainly understandable. Consumer 3D printing has all of the trapping of an overhyped boom and bust. The truth of the matter is that it simply wasn’t ready for the mainstream moment many investors and members of the press were ready to thrust upon it.

But even as desktop 3D printing companies begun to scale back or shutter at an alarming rate, the industry has continued to have success stories among those who have further innovated and targeted the right market. Formlabs jumps out amongst the desktop market, with Carbon presenting a success story on the industrial side of the fence. What unites both beyond innovation is a focus on real-world case uses.

Sonos lays off 12% of staff, closes New York City storefront

In a filing this week, connected speaker maker Sonos noted plans to cut 12% of its workforce, in addition to closing some of its smaller offices and its garish showroom in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood.

The move follows a letter to shareholders sent last month that acknowledged struggles stemming from a combination of closed retail storefronts and a broader lowering of demand for its luxury audio products.

“Our second quarter was challenging, as we experienced a 17% year-over-year decline in revenue,” the company wrote. “Coming off a strong first quarter, we had expected some softness in the second quarter and we did see challenges primarily from a large retail partner in the US rebalancing inventory as well as some weakness in our German market from inventory rebalancing at our distributor. In March, our total revenue declined 23% year-over-year as the typical replenishment order cycle in the majority of our end markets was disrupted due to the softer global demand environment and broad-based physical retail closures stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

CEO Patrick Spence confirmed the move in a statement sent to TechCrunch, placing much of the blame at the feet of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“When the pandemic hit, we took immediate action to review our investments for the year and made changes to reduce operating expenses and preserve liquidity,” Spence wrote. “The pandemic and resulting economic impacts have caused us to have to make some hard choices, including reductions to our workforce, and the closure of some of our smaller offices and our storefront in New York City. These changes are necessary in order for us to emerge from this period ready to take advantage of opportunities we see in the future.”

The chief executive says staff were notified during multiple all-hands meetings over the course of the day yesterday, adding that the hardware maker will be offering up severance, healthcare and career coaching for those impacted by the decision.

The company’s board has also agreed to a 20% cut in Spence’s base salary, effective July 1 through the end of September.

The lengthy plan to restart the NBA season features fitness rings for temperature tracking

A memo obtained by The Athletic details the NBA’s plans to play out the remainder of the 2019-2020 season, beginning at the end of June. It’s a fairly detailed return to action for the league, including some notable tidbits, like, “It is critical that every player understand that he has the right to choose not to return to play.”

Sports are undoubtedly an important part of a society attempting a return to normality, as a much-needed distraction from the day to day horror show of 2020. But such close-quarter activities ought to come with a fair number of safeguards amid such a highly contagious pandemic.

Amid a long list of guidelines for a season broken down week by week is a surprise inclusion of the Oura smart ring. The letter notes that the wearable “may help with the early detection of the coronavirus and will track temperature, respiratory and heart rate and other measures.” The league says players will have the option of wearing the ring as a kind of safeguard designed to pick up on COVID-19 warning signs.

Researchers have been interested in using the ring as a detection system for several months now. Back in March, UCSF initiated a study using thousands of front-line health workers, tracking temperature, sleep and other health stats.

In this context, the rings only work as a small part of a much larger puzzle (the full plan runs 113 pages). It’s one that invariably needs to include regular temperature screenings and testing — the latter of which is key in avoiding the documented spread among asymptotic carriers. Major League Baseball is similarly attempting to start a long-postponed season, though conflicts between owners and players appear to be at an impasse.