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3D printing industry offers PPE support to health workers

Health & NHS

3D printing industry offers PPE support to health workers

The UK tech community is increasingly making use of spare 3D printing capacity to produce personal protective equipment for health workers including community pharmacy staff to support them during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dorset contractor Mike Hewitson recently received PPE face shields produced in his local comprehensive's tech department. "We were offered them by the town council. They turned up within the hour," Mr Hewitson said. Beaminster School has also donated visors to the Dorset County Hospital's Emergency Department to add to their protection. 

Elsewhere, the National 3D Printing Society (N3DPS), working with Medical Supply Drive UK, has assembled a manufacturing and distribution network to help meet the PPE demand during the national pandemic. Its network currently comprises 1,447 N3DPS members who collectively have access to 1,500 printers with a daily production capacity of 45,000 masks. 

N3DPS protective visors are made in two parts: a screen and a 3D printed mount. Screens can be made from clear PVC binder covers with a 4 hole punch, while mounts can be printed in under an hour and can be stacked to produce multiple mounts from a single print.

N3DPS says it is seeking CE approval for its visor design, which is accepted by the NHS. Visors will be sanitised and assembled by N3DPS partners before dispatch.

The N3DPS website contains a link to a PPE request form - this is open to community pharmacies, N3DPS has told Pharmacy Network News - as well as further information on the initiative, and details of the range of businesses that are behind the initiative.

One such company, RS Components, has posted on its website: "We are calling on everybody who has access to a 3D printer to join us in supporting the National 3D Printing Society's initiative to produce and distribute PPE to frontline medical staff as they continue to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. Together as a community of engineers and makers we can all make a real difference." 

There have also been a number community-based efforts using volunteers to print, collect and deliver masks locally, with many coming together under the banner #printforvictory. The #printforVictory website includes a map showing the location of available print capacity, specifications and downloadable print design and document files, as well as a contact form for ordering (or offering printing capacity).

Leading UK manufacturers including Rolls Royce, Quadpack, Burberry, Royal Mint and McLaren are currently readying themselves to produce PPE for health workers nationwide.

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Health & NHS