How we started 3D printing NHS PPE.
I was having another restless sleep in lockdown so I picked up the phone and started reading the online BBC news. I read an article saying that owners of 3D printers have been asked to make PPE for the NHS as there is a chronic shortage. We bought a 3D printer for our son, Tyler, to help him with his GCSE Design & Technology and because I always liked making stuff with them from my days as a product designer and teacher.
Orders for our decals had dropped a lot so with my extra time I had been searching for something to do on more important matters in some way from my home. I was so keen to start helping I registered right away although it was still 4am.
After about three hours of tinkering around with my printer I was off printing visors. The scheme was a national one and 3D prints needed to be posted off to a central depot in Sheffield where they would be put together with the elastic and clear screens for distribution to hospitals.
I was doing this for maybe a day when I got a call from my friend here in Torrington who wanted me to look at something he had been asked to do for the Town Council. The Town wanted to see if some PPE screens could be made for the community who were helping with vulnerable people. It seemed the universe was acting on our behalf here so I joined in with that local effort instead of the national one.
For the ones for the town we had to source our own elastic and clear screens. Nice and easy I thought, but no, it was the hardest part. So many people around the country were doing the same as us. I called a large supplier we use for plastic sheeting and vinyl and she told me there the whole warehouse had bee cleared our for PPE production. To make it worse shops that supply acetate were closed due to the lockdown. It was not easy but eventually I found Derby Braid and Trimming for elastic after one of our customers recommended them but I had to buy 100m but they did me a fantastic price and they told me that they were only working to help supply people like myself who were making PPE.
Then I found A2 sized sheets of acetate. Not ideal but they would do but it would be enough for over 40 masks. So I was on to supply my own, complete masks, locally.
A friend of ours Sharon also works at Barnstaple Hospital in the respiratory ward so she has taken one of my screens there for evaluation and if they want them they can have them.
So on Monday 6th April I dropped off my first batch to Torrington Town Council for local distribution. I'd posted off four to individuals who put themselves in harms way to help vulnerable people so it's going well. Today I'm all out of the plastic filament that the printer used but I'm expecting 1kg to be delivered maybe even today. Once here I want to resume making.
I feel this lock down is a unique opportunity to focus on things other than work and money. It's been great to be involved and it's turned a time when our work and income has dramatically reduced into a time that is useful and personally rewarding. If I'm honest with you, I'm rather enjoying the challenges and rewards this lockdown has brought, just stay safe people and wear PPE.
Below is one of our customers that requested one of our printed screens.