Originally posted on 24 Apr 2020.
In the past few weeks, many major manufacturers have shuttered production as global economies come to a halt due to the coronavirus. As healthcare systems operate past capacity to contain the crisis, the disruption in the manufacturing supply chain has added to the stress by creating a global shortage in personal protective equipment (PPE).
The Autodesk Technology Centres were designed as spaces for exploring new possibilities for making, so in an effort to support healthcare workers on the frontlines, the teams at the centres are taking action.
Utilising the resources available at Autodesk workshops in San Francisco, Boston, Toronto, and Birmingham, UK, technology centre members have joined forces to help bridge the gap in PPE shortages by facilitating production of much-needed face shields.
In Boston, employee volunteers led by technology centre shop staff are using an open-source design to produce a single fold origami-style face shield, laser cut from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), plus a small headband cut from the same material. Nearly 5,000 face shields have been donated across 13 medical clinics in the state. “The feedback I have received from the organisations has been positive. Hearing how useful our face shields have been truly makes me proud to be a part of this project,” said Joe Aronis, a workshop manager in Boston.
“It was very therapeutic to do something physical with my hands and see the stack of ready–to–ship masks grow and the boxes fill up,” said volunteer Lilli Smith, a senior project manager at Autodesk.
At the technology center in Birmingham, the same open–source design is being used to produce origami–style face shields with a modification using Velcro. To date, approximately 1,800 face shields have been delivered to the National Health Service, with more in production.
In Toronto, the technology centre loaned three Markforged 3D printers to the resident team at Advanced Perioperative Imaging Lab (APIL) to produce their version of an open-source visor-style face shield created by medical hardware maker Glia as part of a project with Toronto General Hospital (TGH). They are currently producing between 150-200 face shields per day for medical staff at TGH and other hospitals across the country and hope to ramp up production with the additional printer resources.
“One thing we’ve been learning quickly, and rather painfully, is how to manage these distributed manufacturing models,” said Dr. Azad Mashari, chief anaesthesiologist and director at APIL. “It’s fairly tractable when you have one organisation volunteering 40 printers or when you have a few large pods like that… it gets much more complex when many people want to commit… we don’t yet have a sustainable model for managing a large network of small producers in a system of distributed manufacturing.”