Thousands of 3D printers are making face shields for NHS staff

3DCrowd UK
(Image credit: 3DCrowd UK)

The 3D printer community is banding together in a cooperative effort to produce and distribute face shields which are much needed by NHS staff (and others) due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

There is a well-known shortage of such medical shields, of course, and the organisation called 3DCrowd UK aims to address this by asking folks around the UK who own 3D printers to join in with the production of parts for PPE (personal protective equipment).

Volunteers are signing up across the country to help print face shields – if you have a 3D printer, you can sign up yourself by heading here – with delivery and distribution of the equipment being covered by a GoFundMe campaign (which has just exceeded its target goal of £40,000).

So those without a 3D printer can still contribute funds to delivery costs, and you can contact 3DCrowd UK via the aforementioned website to offer to help in other ways, if you’d like to get involved without 3D printing.

The BBC reports that 3D printing volunteers are given instructions on how to produce headbands for the face shields.

Some 2,300 folks are currently volunteering, with 80,000 medical shields in the initial production batch.

The face shields can be requested by NHS hospitals, GP practices, or care organisations which are short of them, and thus far, some 186,000 units have been requested (in the past week).

Government validation

The BBC notes that these face shields haven’t received formal approval from the UK government, which hasn’t yet commented on 3DCrowd UK’s drive to mass-produce these masks from a grassroots level.

However, 3DCrowd UK’s Gen Ashley told the BBC that the shields have been approved in the Czech Republic, where we have already seen 3D printing outfit Prusa design and produce a medical shield (with the firm expecting to eventually be able to make 4,000 of these daily just on its own).

Prusa is already looking ahead and planning to print other items of PPE such as protective goggles. The 3D printing company also issued a note of caution – which some others have echoed – when it comes to the potential production of more complex equipment like respirators, which are also desperately needed to treat those suffering badly with coronavirus who are having difficulty breathing.

While that ambition is obviously a highly commendable one, Prusa observes that the designs currently available need to be more thoroughly tested to ensure they provide the necessary protection, particularly around the quality of the filter and seal.

Those interested in Prusa’s activities in fighting coronavirus should take a look at our full and illuminating interview with founder Josef Prusa.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).