3D printed auxetic nasopharyngeal swabs for COVID-19 sample collection

Arun Arjunan*, Suhaib Zahid, Ahmad Baroutaji, John Robinson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in worldwide shortages of nasopharyngeal swabs required for sample collection. While the shortages are becoming acute due to supply chain disruptions, the demand for testing has increased both as a prerequisite to lifting restrictions and in preparation for the second wave. One of the potential solutions to this crisis is the development of 3D printed nasopharyngeal swabs that behave like traditional swabs. However, the opportunity to digitally conceive and fabricate swabs allows for design improvements that can potentially reduce patient pain and discomfort. The study reports the progress that has been made on the development of auxetic nasopharyngeal swabs that can shrink under axial resistance. This allows the swab to navigate through the nasal cavity with significantly less stress on the surrounding tissues. This is achieved through systematically conceived negative Poisson's ratio (−υ) structures in a biocompatible material. Finite element (FE) and surrogate modelling techniques were employed to identify the most optimal swab shape that allows for the highest negative strain (−εlat) under safe stress (σvon). The influence and interaction effects of the geometrical parameters on the swab's performance were also characterised. The research demonstrates a new viewpoint for the development of functional nasopharyngeal swabs that can be 3D printed to reduce patient discomfort. The methodology can be further exploited to address various challenges in biomedical devices and redistributed manufacturing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104175
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials
Early online date12 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • 3D printing
  • Auxetic
  • COVID-19
  • Meta-biomaterials
  • Nasopharyngeal swabs
  • Negative Poisson's ratio


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