A group of over 1,200 3D printer owners across the UK have joined forces to address the desperate lack of PPE (personal protective equipment) in the medical and health services, by printing face shields themselves.
3DCrowd UK has already made a few thousand plastic face shields which have been distributed to hospitals, GP practices and social care organisations helping protect frontline staff who are treating COVID-19 patients.
There is a critical shortage of PPE equipment in the UK, so 3DCrowd UK is currently looking to recruit more people with 3D printers to donate their time and skills, volunteers to help distribute masks and for public and corporate donations to cover materials and transportation to the staff in need of this PPE.
Fund-raising for the group started on Monday 23rd March and has now reached over £20,000 towards its current target of £40,000, which would mean that 20,000 protective face shields could be made.
Gen Ashley from 3DCrowd UK said: “We are basically asking all the people around the country with 3D printers to join our project to create face shields for hospitals and other health workers.
“We also need volunteers to help distribute the masks and donations from companies and the public to pay for materials and distribution costs.”
The effort began with James Coxon, a Palliative Medicine doctor with an interest in technology, including 3D printing who, after learning that UK hospitals, medical practices and social care organisations were in dire need of protective face shields that are used to protect the faces of frontline staff, felt those with 3D printers would be able to help.
As more 3D printer owners volunteered to help, they then started 3DCrowd UK – a community of 3D printer owners who are volunteering to print these face shields themselves.
Ranging from hobbyists to professional 3D printers, 3DCrowd UK now co-ordinates a community response, printing, collecting and distributing the face shield parts made by volunteers up and down the UK.
Volunteers with access to a 3D printer can sign up to help online via the 3DCrowd UK website.
They are then provided with instructions and requirements on how to produce the face shield parts themselves.
The 3D printers create the headband part of the face shield, bag up the parts and send them to the closest hub where they are assembled, a clear plastic film is placed on the front and elastic attached to the back to hold it in place.
Doctors, nurses, medical and social care professionals can then request these face shields by filling in a form on the website and volunteers then deliver them where they are needed.
As it stands 365 separate orders have come in which equates to roughly 110,000 face shields being requested by hospitals, medical and social care facilities across the country.
How the public and companies can help
If you don’t have access to a 3D printer you can still help by donating to the group or signing up as a volunteer to help distribute the masks.
The financial donations cover materials (such as the elastic and plastic film) and delivery to hospitals and medical centres throughout the UK.
Ben Sauer from 3DCrowd UK said: “We’re working flat out to try and meet the demand for face shields that are coming through, but we really need more help to ensure that we get the right equipment to doctors and nurses across the country as fast as we possibly can.
“We hear first-hand from those on the front line about how desperately they need this equipment and with the help of the volunteers we can really make a difference to people who are treating those worst affected by coronavirus.
“I implore anyone with a 3D printer to join our group and play a part to help protect the medical and health workers who are fighting coronavirus.
“If you have don’t a printer then volunteering to distribute or providing donations mean that we have the logistics to get these face shields to the people who need them.”
To sign up to volunteer visit: www.3dcrowd.uk
Members of the public can donate to the project here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/3dcrowd-emergency-3d-printed-face-shields