In Spain we are reaching the hardest stage of the coronavirus: when the number of infected people who need health care and enter an ICU exceeds the capacity of the health system. Some hospitals are already beginning to be overwhelmed and supplies are in short supply, which can translate into health personnel infected in the absence of PPE, or in patients who die from not having a respirator that allows them to receive air when their lungs have stopped doing so, as has already happened.
In Spain, several communities and groups have emerged that, either in an organized way or by joining in individually to pitch in in any way possible, have drawn their knowledge and their 3D printers in many cases to help curb health shortages. . And not only through business consortia such as HP, Leitat and SEAT together with the Consortium of the Free Zone to manufacture respirators: also among ordinary citizens, with much fewer resources.
Respirator awaiting validation, and 3D printed protective masks
The latter is the case of Resistance Team, a work team that has worked together to create in less than a week (between March 14 and 20) a respirator prototype that is in the validation phase by the Government of Asturias , the autonomy from which this project has started. If they finally get it, it will be this institution that finances its mass production.
These respirators replicate the operation of the traditional ones, which activate bamboo – the inflatable bag that provides oxygen to the patient – and whose rhythm and depth can be adapted to the needs of the patient in question. They are based on the Jackson Rees system and there are four blocks in their manufacture: hardware, software in the form of firmware soon to be published on Github, electronics based on Arduino and 3D modeling for components such as the pusher.
“We do not want these respirators to be used, but if necessary … we have to have them ready,” says Gonzalo Aller, one of the members of this community. “It is crucial, it has been done in record time and the idea is that we start with a minimum system to be able to intubate whoever needs it as soon as possible. We also want to be able to have many, so that if one fails, we have several backup, and always of course supervised by doctors and engineers “, he explains.
Before even obtaining validation, many individuals have offered their 3D printers to print respirator parts
Gonzalo also comments that has received many requests to join in the printing of the parts that are necessary, but that is not yet possible until validation is obtained. “We have asked for patience, for now the logistics have been prepared so that everything is ready and we can start immediately.”
All that maker community is mobilized, so they will start printing them as soon as they receive the order. Meanwhile, print other objects that are also helpful, such as small tools to open the door without skin contact or protective visors for health personnel, who are also in short supply.
The Ministry of Science of @GobAsturias works with the health authorities in the validation of a respirator prototype developed by Asturian researchers that could be used in Spanish hospitals to alleviate the effects of # COVID19 @ReesistenciaT pic.twitter.com/dtgcByDDy9
– Government of Asturias (@GobAsturias) March 20, 2020
This process, having no software or electronics whatsoever and consisting only of a couple of pieces, is much faster, and in fact it takes several days in progress. For example, in León, where the company León 3D is located, which is acting as the epicenter of all the volunteers who are joining to print protective visors, including the company itself. Right now, about 200 printers from 150 different owners produce these plastic visors, to which pieces of transparent acetate are superimposed and a rubber band is added to fix the piece to the head.
“We are working with the management of the León and Ponferrada hospitals, because the teams that care for the infected have already run out of masks,” explains its spokesperson, Jesús Fernández. “We are also creating some models with superior protection for some people who have asked us. They are already being used as a protection measure.”
Both the company and volunteers with 3D printers in their homes are coordinated to release their models thanks to the collection made by Civil Protection, which follows the same itinerary every day to receive all the masks already printed. “This is supported by each person with the filament they have at home. We are selling it at practically cost, there are people who also get it on their own, and other organizations are donating it. Among municipalities and associations it is being achieved. the respirator is also ready, we will put half of the printers to print cams, gears, etc “, Jesus concludes.
Just to the south, in Zamora, the company Somos 3D Zamora is playing a role very similar to that of León 3D. First, it was bookstores, haberdasheries or individuals who donated the materials to print the protection screens – just like the previous ones – although now the city council of the Zamora capital has assumed that role.
“Yesterday we delivered 300 screens to the Civil Guard, today 600. The 3D printers are working 24 hours a day,” says David Ríos, the owner of the company. “The Civil Guard collects everything and takes it to the hospital, where it is sterilized and mounted.
One of those private citizens who are joining these initiatives is Jaime Delgado, 3D printing enthusiast with a unit at his home in Majadahonda (Madrid). He asked in the Telegram group of collaborators in Madrid and they entrusted him with coordinating the group in his city, which already has 118 people, including some from neighboring towns.
In the absence of respirator validation, 3D printers are being used to create protective screens or tools that allow doors to be opened without skin contact
“I called the Youth Council to coordinate, the city council has already bought the material and is in charge of the logistics.” As in the previous cases, the Local Police and Civil Protection are in charge of collecting it and taking it to hospitals, although they also deliver certain materials. “This is essential, there are materials that are difficult to find and we should not leave the house. Nobody has a PVC sheet at hand,” he explains.
From his home, he prints approved screens, such as those in the cases of Castilla y León, and glasses bridges at the request of the Local Police. “Now everyone wants to make respirators, but it is very difficult. Also, a poorly made respirator is just as dangerous as not having one. I will join in printing parts when one has been clinically validated.” In it they walk from Asturias, We will see if the miracle is achieved in the next few days and a legion of Arduino-based respirators are beginning to reach ICUs across the country.