Around two years ago, Barry Kirby bought his first 3D printer. He was looking to explore the capability to see about making prototype designs, particularly centred around ergonomics but also it fit with his general drive to learn about new technologies and this idea of rapidly producing items held a strong appeal. 24 months on and the “hobby” has become serious as his printers (because he can never just stop at one) are non-stop printing face visors for the NHS who are desperately short of PPE in the Covid-19 pandemic.
Barry took the printers from the K Sharp office in Llanelli and installed them in his front room and joined the ‘Frontline 3D Print’ team which is, at the time of writing, turning out over 500 units a day. Made up of volunteers, both companies and individuals, everyone is focused on one aim, to supply the NHS Frontline.
The brainchild of Robert Venus and Dr Dimitris Pletsas, this project has involved bringing together a community (with very few members having actually met each other) to develop a facemask design that is usable, is robust and enduring, can be cleaned and reused, and pass the assessment of the health board, as well as be ‘simple’ enough to be printed by anyone with a 3d printer.
Robert and Dimitris have worked together before, with a 3D printed F1 car competition for local primary schools, so the idea of bringing a community together was not new, but the scale of this project, in terms of standards and guidelines, bringing people together, as well as fundraising and logistics is immense. But now there are over 30 “farms” printing the visors, which are then collected and brought to central locations for decontamination, assembly and then dispatch to those NHS places that so desperately need them.
Everyone is giving up their own time and resources, but as ever, funding plays a part. To that end, a GoFundMe page has been set up (https://www.gofundme.com/f/1ypsl074qo) and the response from the community has been brilliant. The money has enabled the bulk purchase of printing materials, which is then distributed to the “farms” to keen on with the mission.
Barry is pleased to be playing his part, he said “at K Sharp we are normally looking at the defence frontline and supporting innovation and technology in that domain, to be able to rapidly move to support the NHS in this way is great and helps us feel like we are being proactive in the fight against Covid-19.”
“The way Rob and Dimitris have brought together a complicated community enterprise, involving individual members of the community, businesses, academia and government. The immediate tasks of getting something approved for use by the health authority has been a massive target, which through their persistence, they have achieved. But the other knock on effects, of bringing together a community, especially in this time of isolation, has been fantastic,”
The work is going at full throttle, and all the “farmers” are working flat out to meet the demand. If you have a 3d printer and want to join the effort, then do get in touch, through the Amman Valley Makerspace (https://www.facebook.com/AMMANVMS/) or if you can contribute to the fundraising, then please do so (https://www.gofundme.com/f/1ypsl074qo) or at the very least, please do share the work that is going on, particularly if health professionals you know are in need of face masks in their place of work.