IBM employees produce protective face visors for hospitals

IBM employees produce protective face visors for hospitals

IBM staff with 3D printers are volunteering to turn their devices and skills to help alleviate the shortage of protective face visors for hospitals. Within just the first few days of a rallying call for help, a shipment of 20 visors was created and sent to a grateful University Hospital Southampton. Over 300 have now been distributed, and many more are in production as the team grows and gets more printers running, in what has become a virtual assembly line across the team’s homes. Requests have now been received from around the country including London, Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol. The initiative has even been recognized by the Member of Parliament for Harrow West, Gareth Thomas. How it all started One of last year’s interns at IBM Hursley, Dhiresh Nathwani, contacted Developer Advocate, Sean Tracey, and me to let us know about face visors that can be created by anyone with a 3D printer, and which are designed to help protect medical professionals who are treating patients affected by COVID-19. Sean immediately set his printer into action to test the open source model and after 2 hours of printing, some acetate cutting, and attaching a rubber band, he had created his first protective visor. I also printed a sample visor on my 3D printer at home. The sense of accomplishment and realization that we’d be able to help people desperately in need of supplies led to the start of our collaboration with Dhiresh, and a search for other ’makers’ to join the effort. The rallying call So now we were three, but I knew we needed more people if we were going to be able to produce the quantities required to make a real difference. We put a call out to friends and colleagues in the technical community, reasoning that they would be the most likely to have access to 3D printers. The immediate response was amazing, and the message spread rapidly by word of mouth. By the end of the following day, the team of volunteers had grown to over 20 people, made up of both IBMers primarily linked to the Hursley lab near Winchester, and makers out in the wider community from London and the South East. How useful are 3D printed masks? The masks are intended to help prevent fluids from patients coming into contact with the skin of hospital staff. In normal circumstances healthcare professionals would have access to medically certified visors to provide the necessary protection, but these are not normal circumstances. These home-made visors are not medically approved or tested devices, and they are produced and supplied through a volunteering initiative, not on any commercial basis. They are intended and acknowledged as a temporary measure to try and help keep frontline staff safer than if they had no protection at all. Each mask is typically used for one shift although some hospitals are exploring the possibility of cleaning them for re-use. Progress update Since the team started production on 26th March, we have received requests for nearly 2,000 visors from more than 20 NHS trusts and health services across the country. On the 31 st March we shipped the first batch to University Hospital Southampton where they’ve been put straight into service. On Sunday 5th April the team sent out a further 100 visors and now more than 300 have been distributed. Related Stories



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