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Home Latest Articles Quarantine Using your 3D printer to help fight Covid-19

Using your 3D printer to help fight Covid-19

Alex
Updated 17 April 2020
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We all want to do what we can to help out in the fight against Covid-19. The easiest way is just to STAY. HOME. and don’t do anything stupid, but some people may want to find more active ways to help. Well, if you have a 3D printer, maybe you can!

As you may have read in the news, there is a serious shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for key workers in the NHS. Much of this equipment must be made to exacting standards, and so can only be manufactured by specialist companies.

However there is one piece of equipment that can be manufactured by anyone with a 3D printer - face masks to help shield doctors and nurses from coughs while they are working. Because the sections of this shield are relatively simple to fabricate, and have no moving parts or specialist gear, the NHS has authorised the 3D printing community to chip in to make as many of these shields as they can.

The National 3D Printing Society and DesignSpark has therefore launched an initiative to mobilise the UK’s 3D printer community into action. It is important to note this is not an amateur effort: They have an NHS-accepted design (shown above)for a face shield that is relatively quick and easy to create (approx. 1 hour per shield), and supports a wide variety of facial shapes/glasses/etc. They also have a distribution network already set up, and will work to collect the shields, sterilize them, and distribute them to hospitals across the country. Finally, they have the support of several major professional engineering companies.

You can find a details of the initiate on DesignSpark’s website. On this page you can find instructions, the STL source files, a materials list, a rundown of their Quality Inspection process and guidelines on recommended hygiene guidelines while fabricating.

You can find a direct link to the .STL files on their Google Drive

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It is important to note that anyone wanting to help fabricate these shields should limit themselves to just the accepted face shield design, and not try to get too inventive or attempt to fabricate any other PPE gear. Much of the remaining PPE gear and disposable hospital equipment are beyond the scope of hobbyist printers - and even successful fabrications won’t be accepted by hospitals, because they will require stringent testing and certification before they are used. So stick to the face masks, and leave the redesigned ventilators to the professionals.

Finally, if you don’t have access to a 3D printer, you can still help the cause. The National 3D Printing Society have set up a fundraiser to cover the cost of materials their members use - you can donate to their JustGiving campaign. Or if you want dive in and get a 3D printer to help fabricate shields, we’ve got you covered.

Alternatively, if you want to use your computer to help fight Covid-19, check out ‘Folding@home'. This is a project that borrows the processing power of your computer to crunch complex calculations required for disease research. Basically they are running highly complex simulations on viral proteins: these simulations only highlight a tiny part of the whole, so they need to run a massive amount of them. All you have to do is install a program that uses the spare processing power of your computer to run the simulations in the background, then uploads the results to the team. They can then use the results from you and millions of other users to plot further simulations - hopefully getting closer and closer to understanding the structure of Covid-19. You can find a more detailed explanation on their website.

However you choose to help, stay at home and stay safe!

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