Members of the 3D Printing group on Facebook are doing their bit for the community by printing much-needed face shields for healthcare workers in Ireland.
Kae Verens, who I previously interviewed about his involvement in CoderDojo, is also part of this initiative. About a month ago he tells me, people in the group were experimenting with some designs such as facemasks, face shields and gadgets to allow doors to be opened and buttons to be pushed without touching them.
Kae says that he’s not sure who first came up with the idea for visors, but the group’s desire to help out seemed to just grow organically.
‘Some of us talked to local doctors and medical workers and discussed what would actually be needed, and we eventually gravitated mostly towards printing face shields, because they’re very simple designs, and quick to manufacture,’ he tells me.
Taking a proactive approach, Kae called up his local hospital in Monaghan and was put through to their managers who passed it up the chain. They called back asking Kae for examples.
‘We met in a car park. Probably looked like some sort of shady deal going down as we were literally examining wares laid out in the back of a car,’ Kae tells me.
‘I handed over three different designs of the face shield and demonstrated how simple their design is and told the manager what I knew about the plastic I use (PLA).’
The simplicity and cost-effectiveness are in the design and that’s why it’s easy to print.
It composes of a ‘shield’ that’s cut from a PVC binding cover (25 sheets for €5 from the local stationery office), a 3D printed frame that the shield hangs off from ‘nubs’ that are pushed through punched holes in the shield, and an optional elasticated ribbon that can be used to help keep it on your head. In total, each face-shield cost only about 80c or so for the materials.
Each printer is different but on average they can print just over one shield per hour.
‘Unfortunately, the design the hospital settled on (created by a Swedish company called 3d Verkstan) cannot be easily stacked, so there is a manual reload after each hour, so there’s about a maximum of 16 per day per printer that we can do,’ Kae tells me.
Kae has been offered loans of four printers from locals and the local council’s Town Team has paid for one more. He’s currently looking into commandeering the local library’s and school’s printers as well so that they can always have at least six printers working totalling around 100 face shields a day.
‘My personal printer is a highly modified Anet A8, which is one of the cheaper printers available. You can get it for about €160 online. It’s probably one of the most popular cheap printers available. It’s not a bad little thing. I’ve had worse! The other printers I’m using are mostly Anet A8 and A8+ printers as well. It’s a popular make.’
Kae is doing all of this from his home and other printing enthusiasts around the country are doing what’s available to them.
‘In one case, a Dublin printer has an entire farm of 50 machines or so that he is dedicating to this when they’re not commissioned for other things, but for the most part, we do what we can with what we have.’
‘We’re very gung-ho about it. We all want to help and to be honest, it feels very good to be useful and not just like the mad scientist tinkering away in a shed!’
You can find out more by reaching out to the 3D Printing community on Facebook here.