Coronavirus
A health care worker at a hospital in Guanajuato with one of the makers' masks. A health care worker at a hospital in Guanajuato with one of the makers' masks.

Makers community goes to work on protective shields for health workers

More than 300 3D printers are turning out shields to protect workers from Covid-19

Mexico’s community of makers is banding together to support the medical response to the growing outbreak of Covid-19.

Using more than 300 3D printers, laser cutters and other tools, at least 250 groups of makers and innovators across the country are dedicating as much time as they can to the manufacture of protective face shields for doctors, nurses and other medical personnel who are currently treating people with coronavirus and are likely to see a much greater influx of patients as the outbreak of the disease worsens.

Groups have formed in Mexico City and states across the country, including Puebla, Michoacán, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Yucatán, Nuevo León and Guerrero, and hospitals in several states have already taken delivery of plastic face masks.

The makers’ work is especially important given that healthcare workers across Mexico protested this week to demand personal protective equipment such as face masks so that their safety is ensured while treating Covid-19 patients.

According to a report by the newspaper El Economista, the makers in Mexico became aware of the need to start making masks after chatting via the internet with their counterparts in countries such as Italy, Spain and the United States, where there have been massive outbreaks of Covid-19 and thousands of deaths.

Many of the designs being used in Mexico were shared by members of the makers’ communities in those countries.

One of the leaders of the efforts in Mexico is Abraham Trujillo, a mechatronics engineer in Acapulco, Guerrero, and head of the México Makers Covid-19 organization, which is coordinating the work of many of the makers’ groups across the country.

He told El Economista that almost 800 people are working with México Makers Covid-19 to produce face masks from sheets of acetate and other materials.

Trujillo said that approximately 700 masks were made with 3D printers this week, 300 of which have already been delivered to hospitals. He explained that the majority of people participating in the mask-making efforts do not usually work in manufacturing jobs.

Trujillo added that México Makers Covid-19 coordinators in states across the country are contacting local hospitals to find out if they need additional masks for their staff. He also said that the office supplies store Lumen has agreed to donate sheets of acetate so that the different groups can make more masks.

The group is also seeking donations from the public of acetate sheets, elastic bands, laser cutters and 3D printers. The group can be contacted via email at donaciones@mexicomakers.org.

Clemente delivers masks to a hospital in Morelia, Michoacán.
Clemente, right, delivers masks to a hospital in Morelia, Michoacán.

In Guanajuato, two young entrepreneurs who operate an on-demand 3D printing business in the city of León have also turned their focus to producing protective face shields. Omar Ramos and María de la Barrera came up with their own mask design by combining different characteristics of protective shields made by makers in both Italy and Spain.

They have already made several dozen masks that they have distributed to hospitals in León and other Guanajuato cities. Ramos and de la Barrera’s business, impresion3d.mx (Spanish only), is also seeking donations to support their mask-making efforts.

Two other members of the makers’ community supporting the response to Covid-19 are Diego Villegas Orozco and Moisés Clemente Guzmán.

Villegas, a dental surgeon, is acting as a coordinator for mask-making groups in Mexico City and has already delivered a batch of 30-40 masks to six hospitals including La Raza National Medical Center, whose workers have protested a lack of protective equipment twice in the past week.

He told El Economista that just three people had joined the efforts to make plastic face shields by last Sunday but that number grew to 88 during the week. Villegas said that the makers in the capital have the capacity to produce triple the number of masks they made this week (220 approximately) provided they have sufficient materials.

For his part, Clemente, a 3D printing hobbyist, is making face masks in Morelia, Michoacán, where he works for a digital education platform. He has already donated his creations to hospitals in his home state as well as Jalisco, San Luis Potosí and Querétaro.

Clemente said that each mask he makes costs 50 pesos (US $2) to produce, adding that he hoped that other people with access to 3D printers and knowledge about how to use them would also join the mask-making initiative.

Another Mexican supporting the efforts, albeit from afar, is Marco Antonio Castro Cosío, who lives in one of the global hotspots of Covid-19 – New York City.

From the Big Apple, the Jalisco native is helping to establish relationships between hospitals in his home state and makers currently producing face masks. The digital innovation researcher said that his aim is to ensure that Mexican medical personnel have sufficient protective equipment to treat an expected influx of Covid-19 patients.

“It appears that the tsunami will reach us [Mexico] later so we have to prepare. Here in New York, a lot of the makers who want to help can’t find materials anymore because we’re at home [in quarantine] now and the majority of stores are not open,” Castro said.

He added that it makes him “very happy” to see so many people contributing to the efforts to respond to Covid-19 in Mexico, where there were 717 confirmed cases of the disease as of Friday and 12 coronavirus-related deaths.

Source: El Economista (sp) 

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