A MAKESHIFT assembly line for personal protective equipment (PPE) sprang up in Garryduff Sports Centre at the weekend, with volunteers rowing in to help combat shortages.
The initiative, started by Benchspace, a co-making workspace based in Cork city, aims to help with the shortage of protective equipment by producing face shields using 3D printers.
It set up a GoFundMe page to help with the cost of materials and raised almost €25,000 in one week.
“Due to the Covid-19 crisis we’ve had to close down the workshop to the public and the majority of our makers,” organisers said.
“We do, however, have a number of 3D printers and an 80w laser cutter.
“We decided to put this equipment to use creating face shields for frontline workers. To stop a potential bottleneck, we also put out a call for home-based 3D printer-owners to help us in creating these masks.”
Benchspace worked closely with healthcare professionals, establishing protocols, trialling various designs, and establishing a distribution plan.
“We have committed to providing the masks free of charge to a number of major hospitals and elderly care institutions,” it said.
“We estimate we can produce over 2,400 face masks a week to distribute, but material and distribution costs will be in excess of €6,000.
"Our goal is to get 10,000 masks into the hands of health workers over the next four weeks.”
Over the weekend, the sports hall at Garryduff was offered as a site to help streamline assembly of the face shields. One of the volunteers, Deirdre Hourihane, who was instrumental in securing Garryduff Sports Centre as an assembly factory, said: “It was important to establish a more structured supply chain in a venue that would be large enough to adhere to social distancing.
“Approximately 100 volunteers at home with 3D printers manufacture the headbands, which are then delivered to Garryduff Sports Centre by Blood Bikes South and Southern 4x4 Response. From there, there are a number of different teams with various tasks,” she said.
One group of gloved volunteers sanitises the headbands using IPA, another cuts medical-grade acetate into a visor shape, then another group punch holes in the visors before they are packed up for distribution to healthcare staff.
Ms Hourihane said the PPE will be used in community settings in Cork and Kerry: “We are just waiting for feedback from the first batch to see if any tweaks need to be made.”