Army of volunteers in Cork making face-shields for frontline staff

Army of volunteers in Cork making face-shields for frontline staff
Junior Cert pupil Donnacha O’Halloran, front, and fellow volunteers with one of the completed face-shields after assembly at Garryduff Sports Centre, Cork. Owners of 3D printers were asked to print the headbands at home and the components are then being collected by volunteers from Southern 4x4 Response and Blood Bikes South for assembly at the sports centre, in line with physical distancing guidelines. Picture: Larry Cummins

An army of volunteers has been mobilised to produce tens of thousands of protective face-shields for frontline healthcare workers.

The first 3,000 DIY PPE-visors rolled off the newly-established virtual factory for assembly at a sports hall in Cork at the weekend.

Almost 1,600 have been distributed for use by healthcare workers in various community settings over the coming days, with the design team on standby for feedback.

If any changes are needed, it is hoped to ramp up production within days to produce up to 10,000 face-shields over the coming weeks.

"We are just a voluntary group of people trying to help," one of the volunteers, Deirdre , said.

"We all wanted to do something to help those staff on the frontline - to ensure their safety.

"For some of us involved, they are our friends, our family, or our neighbours who are on the frontline.

"We all know that suppliers and sources of PPE are under pressure and this 'product' hasn't followed the normal route to market but these are extreme circumstances."

The idea was the brainchild of members of Benchspace - a co-making work space in Cork city, which has had to close its workshop to the public and most of its makers because of the Covid-19 crisis.

One of its directors, David Scannell, said they saw a co-working group in Baltimore in the US, launch a healthcare face-shield production project recently.

"We thought we have the community, the equipment and the expertise here so why not do the same?" he said.

They issued a public appeal to anyone with a 3D printer at home to get involved and within days, almost 90 people had volunteered.

The youngest printer is 11-year-old Finn Yore, from Lissarda, whose father, Bernard, is also involved in the venture's collection and distribution network with Southern 4x4 Response.

With crucial input from medical experts in infectious disease control, and combined with the experience of those involved, many of whom have specialist industry expertise, a 'best-practice' face-shield design was agreed, and various production, assembly and distribution protocols were agreed.

The 3D printer owners were asked to follow the agreed design and print the headband element of the face-shields at home.

Conor O'Neill of Southern 4x4 Response collects a batch of 3D printed headbands from Finn Yore, 11, in West Cork, for delivery to the assembly hub in Garryduff Sports Hall. Picture: Larry Cummins
Conor O'Neill of Southern 4x4 Response collects a batch of 3D printed headbands from Finn Yore, 11, in West Cork, for delivery to the assembly hub in Garryduff Sports Hall. Picture: Larry Cummins

The headbands are collected in batches by volunteers from Blood Bikes South and Southern 4x4 Response and are then brought to Garryduff Sports Centre, near Cork city, where an assembly line has been set up, in line with physical distancing guidelines.

Here, gloved volunteers sanitise the headbands, cut medical-grade acetate into a visor shape and punch holes in the visors before packing up to five single-use visors and one headband into a bag for distribution to healthcare staff.

The team believes they will be able to produce over 2,400 face masks a week.

Material and distribution costs will be in excess of €6,000.

A GoFundMe campaign has raised almost €24,000.

Mr Scannell said the response has been overwhelming and any funds raised above their fundraising target will be distributed to other groups trying to help during the Covid-19 crisis.

Ms Hourihane said the PPE will be used in various community settings in Cork and Kerry.

"It could be used by healthcare staff at test centres, in nursing homes or community hospitals, by home help workers and by meals and wheels volunteers," she said.

"We are just waiting for feedback from the first batch before ramping up production."

You can donate via GoFundMe here.

Meanwhile, the team of teachers and students at Kinsale Community School who began making face-shields last week have run out of acetate.

They appealed over the weekend for any printers or shops with spare acetate to make donations.

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