Themes: Inclusive Design
COVID-19 response: 3D Printing face shields for the NHS
Hi – I’m Maryam, a PhD Student at GDI Hub and UCL Interaction Centre. I research assistive technologies for supporting access to parks for blind and partially sighted people. I’ve recently taken a keen interest in 3D modelling and printing. Due to the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for essential workers, I joined a community of volunteer 3D printing enthusiasts across the UK, 3DCrowd UK (https://3dcrowd.org.uk/).
As a 3D printing newbie, I had only recently bought an Ender3, which is a great first 3D printer for beginners, to add 3D printing to my set of skills. I heard about 3DCrowd UK through a news article around mid-March and that they were fundraising to print approximately 350,000 face shields for the NHS and other essential workers. I instantly signed up and became one of the 5,000+ volunteers to join the #TheBigPrint. The weekend of April 11-12, 3DCrowd UK delivered 40,000 face shields to NHS hospitals across the UK and haven’t stopped since. So far 3DCrowd UK has delivered over 168,000 face shields to front line workers in over 90 NHS Trusts and care homes.
In addition to coordinating thousands of volunteers and face shield printing and distribution efforts across the UK, the 3D Crowd team also established the standard operating procedures for printing and packaging to ensure proper handling of the face shields during production and delivery. For example, volunteers are required to wear protective gloves and masks and plastic zip lock bags to store the printed face shields (the SOPs can be found here https://www.3dcrowd.uk/wiki/docs/). Volunteers are also asked to label the packages with printing date to further avoid the chances of spread of COVID-19 per government guidelines.
The recipient frontline workers were advised to use the face shields after the suggested number of days (3-7 days for plastic) had passed. I printed the popular face shield design Prusa Face Shield RC3 (https://www.prusaprinters.org/prints/25857-prusa-protective-face-shield-rc3/files) which has been used by 3D printing community across Europe and the USA to print face shields. I used the commonly used PLA material for printing my face shields which is easier to handle for beginners; more experienced volunteers also used PETG.
All 3D printed face shields are suitable for single use only which is worries me about the amount of plastic waste our face shields will produce. Perhaps there is a more sustainable solution out there.
Although I have made a very small contribution in this huge movement, I am proud to be a part of the 3D Crowd community and to play a small part in helping the frontline workers. This experience has helped me learn new skills at a rapid rate but also inspire others around me to learn more about 3D printing. My son, who is 8 years old, has taken a keen interest in 3D modelling and printing and I’m amazed by his creativity. We are now exploring the world of 3D models and printing musical instruments, car models, and even attempting to scan and print daddy’s face!
3DCrowd UK volunteers are still working hard to get essential PPE to frontline workers. Please support the movement by donating to their fundraiser on https://www.gofundme.com/f/3dcrowd-emergency-3d-printed-face-shields/.