How the Maker Community reacted to PPE Shortages
Following COVID-19’s evolution from epidemic to pandemic, fear of PPE shortages in hospitals quickly became a reality for many countries across the world which has yet to subside. The 3D printing industry reacted quickly. In the last year we’ve seen several additive manufacturing companies responding to this shortage with a variety of exceptional innovations. It was not, however, companies alone which came to the rescue. There were several grassroots initiatives spawning from the maker community which not only responded quickly but mobilised in large numbers. Across the world makers were turning their homes, schools and workplaces into makeshift PPE factories.
Last year, volunteer maker communities banded together. A report by Open Source Medical Supplies (OSMS) and Nation Of Makers (NOM) recorded over 42’000 citizen responders and 1’869 local response groups across 86 countries, delivering over 48.3 million units of medical supplies, worth over $270 million, 32.4% of which were 3D printed. This was enabled by several non-profit organisations who developed methods to connect makers and supply them with designs and instructions for medical grade PPE. OSMS has created an open source design library and guidance to support local groups in effectively organizing fabrication and distribution efforts to meet the local demand for COVID-19 supplies. All designs are medically reviewed, you can find the library here. OSMS also compiled research on what kinds of PPE should be used in what circumstances in order to minimise risk of infection. This has allowed volunteer makers to optimise PPE.
Why is PPE so important?
PPE, or Personal Protective Equipment, is essential for the protection of health care workers from exposure to coronavirus. PPE includes masks, respirators, face shields, gloves, goggles, gowns, and other equipment. Without PPE our first line of defence against the COVID-19 is made vulnerable. In May 2020, the Federal government set a goal to obtain 300 million N95 masks for front line health workers. By mid-November this goal was not even halfway achieved, with only 142 million masks secured. National Nurses United, the US’s largest union of registered nurses, released a survey at the end of November reporting that only 16.% of nurses in hospitals said they had universal PPE in the emergency department. Moreover, by November roughly 70% of facilities had completely run out of one or more types of PPE for the third month in a row. These statistics only serve to prove that the global supply shortage has worsened rather than improved. There has been a market failure. Governments have been unable to meet the demand with current supply chain methods. Ali Raja, an emergency-room doctor who co-founded Get Us PPE, the nation’s largest nonprofit founded by emergency physicians to give donated PPE to organisations that need it, said “the disconnect between what’s purported to be in the stockpile and the needs on the front-line is astounding.”
Maker Community PPE Initiatives
Perhaps one of the most impressive innovations resulting from the maker community’s reaction to the PPE shortage, is the creation of networks which connect individual makers wishing to volunteer to communities. #FindTheMakers and Get Us PPE both provide a map of 895 groups, 237 of which use 3D printing, across the world, allowing makers to volunteer with ease and convenience. You can find your closest volunteer makers group here. Get Us PPE is a non-profit established in the early days of the pandemic, which helps makers both to manufacture and supply PPE to the frontline workers that need it the most. C19 Coalition has a particularly outstanding track record having delivered over one billion units of PPE to frontline workers since March 2020. The C19 Coalition brings crucial partners together to help build an efficient, unified supply chain for PPE and lifesaving medical devices. State governments, corporations, manufacturers, non-profits, and individuals can connect through us to share and request resources and information. C19 Coalition achieved this in partnership with Get Us PPE as well as several well-known 3D printing companies including HP and FormLabs. Several companies such as FormLabs, Prusa and NanoHack, noting the potential of the maker community to help combat the PPE shortage, have also shared stl files and instructions for printing PPE. A report published earlier this week on 3D printing in the fight against coronavirus notes that the availability of these files has given anyone with a 3D printed in their homes the ability to print several hundred face shields within a week. This potential was confirmed by a 9 year old boy who began 3D printing masks for local frontline workers when schools first shut. You can watch the story in the video below:
David Rainosek, MD, Associate Medical Director of St. Vincent Rehabilitation Hospital, Arkansas, commented on the maker community’s volunteer initiatives: “it meant the world and literally, in some cases, probably our lives to have this equipment and protective equipment produced and distributed by this army of volunteers. And…I don’t know that we can ever say thank you enough.“
What do you think about the maker community’s response to the pandemic? Let us know in a comment below or on our Facebook and Twitter pages! Sign up for our free weekly Newsletter here, the latest 3D printing news straight to your inbox!