Video Editor: Puneet Bhatia
Producer: Smitha TK
While the country is dealing with a shortage of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for doctors and frontline medical staff during the coronavirus pandemic, a few students of IIT-Madras, along with a Chennai-based 3D printing company, NexGen3D Printers, have designed and manufactured 3D face shields. These face shields made with an acrylic sheet and a headband to hold it in place can be used by health professionals, sanitation workers, police officials, corporation workers etc who are on the front lines during the COVID-19 crisis.
A Shield to Counter the PPE Shortage
The team has already distributed about 1,000 shields and are planning to distribute 1,800 more in the next two days.
The cost of printing one mask is Rs 100. There are seven employees working on shift for 20 hours to keep the printers running and to assemble the product. In a day, 1,200-1,500 shields are being produced, which they plan on increasing once they partner with more manufacturers.
With the guidance of Professor Satyanarayanan Chakravarthy from the Department of Aerospace Engineering at IIT-Madras, 22-year-old Hari Ramachandran, a final-year engineering student, got in touch with the Avishkar Hyperloop team and the NexGen 3D printers to bring this idea to fruition.
Avishkar Hyperloop is a student team from the Centre For Innovation at IIT-M and four students from this team – two from Chennai, one from Bengaluru and another from Pune – came forward to be a part of this initiative. Hari understood the need for these shields after talking to his father, who is the Head Of the Department at the paediatric ICU at Child Trust Hospital. “My father pointed out that PPE is in serious short supply,” he said.
Pranit, another IIT-M student working on the project, said:
“It is the nurses, ward boys, ambulance drivers, other health care workers apart from the doctors and nurses who are also equally important. Some of them have not been turning up at work because of the risk of contracting the virus. So we hope this will help that disparity.”
Face Shield: A Better Substitute for Hazmat Head Gear
Explaining the challenges of working with a hazmat suit, Padmaja, co-founder of NexGen3D Printers said:
“Doctors feel this is a perfect replacement to a hazmat suit and helmet as that restricts the doctors from using stethoscopes. While treating viral patients, using a stethoscope is very vital. They felt with normal PPE, these shields will be an additional protection from accidental blood splatters and if patients cough into their faces directly.”
“Also, the PPEs become very suffocating as there is no ventilation, which is the case even with policemen who use helmets as protective gear,” said Pranit.
Dr Abhishek Menon, Casualty Medical Officer at Government Royapettah General Hospital, told The News Minute that he approves of the gear. “What we are concerned at this point is the virus transmitting through the aerosol route. This face shield makes sure that does not happen. And it is also cheap so it makes good sense to use it,” he said.
So far, they have received over 11,000 orders, out of which 9,300 orders will be sent out by end of this week.
They have already distributed to government hospitals in Chennai, Krishnagiri, Kancheepuram, Puducherry and Chidambaram and even police personnel. Hari explained how logistics has been a challenge but they have been spreading the message through word of mouth.
“The dean of the Krishnagiri government hospital is coming to Chennai this weekend. The MLA of Kancheepuram wanted 5,000 shields to be distributed in the district,” he said.
“We have been seeing policemen wearing riot helmets to serve the same purpose as these shields could. We are now reaching out to different stations to ask for their needs.”Hari, IIT-M Student
The Kotturpuram Deputy Commissioner has already given an order for 1,000 face shields.
The NexGen3D Printers have been operating from Kotturpuram in Chennai and have been in the industry for three years. “We are into 3D printing for healthcare equipment like implants... we work with engineering companies to prototype their products, work with MNCs like Ford, and many companies in IIT research incubation centre,” said Padmaja, co-founder of NexGen3D Printers. They sought permission from the Joint Director of industry and commerce to be counted as ‘essential commodities’ and were allowed to operate.
Country-Wide Calls To Replicate Model
Pranit said they have already received calls from people in Mumbai, Kochi, and Indore who want to replicate their model, and the team has shared their design. When asked if these shields can be reused, he explained that this is totally up to the hospitals, based on the resources they have. “Some hospitals, which are capable of buying in larger numbers, don’t need to reuse. But some others have been using it for over four days after sanitising. Some others have also raised an issue that the sanitising solution leaves a white refuse on the sheet. So we are still figuring that out,” he added.
The team pointed out that the injection moulding process is a more efficient method but 3D printing works for a quick turnaround. For injection printing, two weeks are required to have the system up and running and then about 3,000-4,000 shields can be manufactured.
“But the issue is right now, right here and we have a demand which cannot be solved two weeks from now.”Hari, II-M Student
Pranit, however, said that if they can use this method, then the cost of printing a shield can be halved to Rs 50.
They have been funding this operation purely with donations and if you too wish to donate for this project, you can click here.