With health workers in many parts of the world facing shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) due to coronavirus, households and small businesses are turning their 3D printers into factories to create essential supplies. Some engineering enthusiasts have also decided to turn this initiative into a recycling project.
Communities such as 3DCrowd UK group and private companies supporting the cause are encouraging volunteers to join. Countless companies such as Czech 3D printer company Prusa Research have made the open-source design for the shields available on their websites adding an invite that says "anybody with a 3D printer can join and help professionals in their area".
There is no integrated quality benchmark available, however, and the production is often not approved by officials. Whatever mask you might be using, it is always advisable to check the corresponding guidelines on how to use them.
Float Digital, an online marketing agency in Falmouth, UK added an extra element of environmental good to their contribution. The company is using recycled plastic bottles to create their contribution.
Another open-source technology developer, Precious Plastic, engaged its community by creating templates for volunteers. The company usually shares solutions for people to reuse plastic waste and even start companies making items from alternative plastic sources. Workshops around Europe responded, using their machines to shred and remould old plastic. Precious Plastic Grand Canaria has shared designs for intensive care respirator masks and worked with Spanish Precious Plastic La Safor to develop their own versions of face visors.
It's not only masks that are being created either. Greek retail company AluMoulds joined forces with a Swiss counterpart to design hand-free door openers. These help to reduce the spread of the virus from surfaces like door handles that are touched by lots of people.
Some thousands of kilometres away, in Uganda a Berkeley PhD student found a way to turn her social enterprise project into a way of protecting her community, reports Berkeley News. Paige Balcom, who is studying mechanical engineering, teamed up with community activist Peter Okwoko and brought about Takataka Plastics. It was set up to recycle some of the 600 tonnes of plastic waste generated by the country every day.
As COVID-19 begins to spread in Africa, the social enterprise has shifted production to face shields. Takataka Plastics has the capacity to produce 400 units of the vital protective equipment a day, with orders coming from "woefully underequipped" local hospitals.
In the Philippines, face shields and masks made of recycled materials are being created by the military. Manila Bulletin reports that the Research and Development Centre of the Air Force (PAF) is creating face masks and shields out of plastic bottles and used cloth. They are designed for soldiers working at border checkpoints and healthcare providers. Nurses at The Medical City in the Philippines posted their 'thank you' on Facebook, wearing improvised face shields made from recycled plastic bottles.
While Venezuela faces a political as well as a health crisis, a handful of individuals took matters in their own hands and started manufacturing facial shields in small workshops, offices and even with 3D printers in their living rooms. A community of three makeshift factories grew into a chain of volunteers who use recycled plastic donated to them. They have completed about 8,000 face shields in the last three weeks, AP reports.
Click on the video above to see how Venezuelans produce face shields in their makeshift workshops.