With shortages of all manner or medical and personal protective equipment (PPE) in hospitals all over the world, an ingenious source of supply has quickly emerged. ‘Makers’ with 3D printers and laser cutters in their homes or garages are banding together and churning out the components necessary to make face shields. As I write this, the 22nd one I’ve made is rolling off my own 3D printer.

Here’s the idea: a face shield is a fairly simple item, but as with any medical PPE, it’s also essential for nurses, doctors and other clinicians on the front line of the COVID-19 coronavirus fight. As the originators of ‘Project Face Shield NZ’ (check out the Facebook page…particularly if you have a 3D printer and/or a laser cutter) say, approved and verified medical equipment is ‘Plan A’. Plan B is the makers!

Through a wide community effort of makers around the world we can produce a lot of parts quickly. One printer by itself is fairly slow, hundreds of printers suddenly makes a difference.

For more details, check out the Stuff story here and another from Newshub here (where you’ll also see exactly what a face shield looks like).

3D printers are ideal for producing the framing of the face shield because there is no tooling required, we load up filament, press a button and out comes a part 2hrs later. Laser cutters, accurately slice the plastic for the visor; the parts are mailed in to Project Face Shield, where they are sterilized, packed and then distributed to medical personnel who need them.

On the Facebook page, you can sign up with full and clear instructions to get your home production ramped up, including links to the 3D printing/laser cutting files required. And even if you don’t have a printer or cutter, you can contribute towards the costs of 3D printer consumables.

And on that note, makers putting their equipment to use are reimbursed for the filament used to ensure supply is kept going. I will go through a 1kg roll of filament every few days on a single printer.

The folks at Project Face Shield aren’t just mobilizing the makers, either. They’ve also reached out to District Health Boards (DHBs), letting them know there is a supply of essential PPE coming in from around New Zealand – so you can be sure the things you produce will get to where they are needed. As a result of publicity pharmacies, midwives and other medical professionals are reaching out to the group showing the sheer demand for the shields.  

If you have this kind of equipment, this is an opportunity to do something awesome to help. In times like these, along with doing our part and staying home, here’s a chance to make a positive contribution & difference to our front line workers.