According to a recently released academic study, researchers at the University of Sussex and his associates in Nigeria used open source designs and 3D printing to reduce personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages for a community in Nigeria during the COVID-19 outbreak.
dr. Royhaan Folarin of Olabisi Onabanjo University in Nigeria and Dr. Andre Maia Chagas of the University of Sussex in the paper PLOS Biology how their collaboration resulted in the creation of more than 400 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the nearby hospital and the community at large, including those providing essential and frontline services.
This includes face masks and face shields, previously unavailable to traditional businesses due to global scarcity.
They collaborated using open source designs that already existed and provided instructions for producing authorized PPE. This made it possible for Nigerian researchers to purchase, build and use a 3D printer so that they could make and distribute protective clothing for the benefit of the local population. And it was reasonably priced.
A face shield that costs 1,200 Naira (£2.38) and is made in an average of 1 hour and 30 minutes by a 3D printer operator and an assembler, and a mask that costs 2,000 Naira (£3.97) in 3 hours and 3 minutes . By comparison, at the time of the project, reusable masks cost 10,000 Naira (£19.84) and face shields cost at least 5,000 Naira (£9.92).
Through knowledge sharing, collaboration and technology, we were able to help a community through a global health crisis. I’m really proud of the tangible difference we’ve made at a critical time for this community. With such high demand for personal protective equipment and low inventories, prices for surgical masks, respirators and gowns rose, with export and international distribution problems.
dr. Maia Chagas, Research Bioengineer, University of Sussex
dr. Chagas added: “We quickly realized that alternative ways of manufacturing and distributing PPE were needed. Free and open-source hardware (FOSH) and 3D printing quickly became a viable option. We hope that our international collaboration during the pandemic will inspire other innovators to use technology and share knowledge to tackle societal problems, which have typically relied on funding or support from government or major research institutions.†
†With open source design, knowledge sharing and 3D printing, there is a real opportunity for us to tackle problems from the ground up and empower local communities and researchers.stated Dr. chagas.
During the pandemic we saw the successful printing and donation of personal protective equipment in the Czech Republic by Prusa Research and it became a goal for me to use the training I received in previous TReND in Africa workshops to impact my immediate community in Nigeria†
dr. Royhaan Folarin, Neuroscientist and Lecturer, Anatomical Sciences, Olabisi Onabanjo University in Nigeria
The TReND in Africa network, a Sussex-based organization promoting the development of scientific competence across Africa, has led to the global partnership.
The innovativeness, practicality and aesthetics of the PPE were praised by testers after first use. While the team’s 3D printer was not designed for large-scale serial production, the testers recognized the potential for multiple 3D printers to work in parallel to speed up relative production time.
This was successfully proven during the epidemic by the company Prusa Research, which made and transported 200,000 CE-certified face shields.
Folarin, RO, et al† (2022) Circumvention of PPE shortages in low-income situations using local manufacturing and open source tools. PLOS Biology. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.3001658†
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