Guide East Devon residents Coronavirus update - 1 May 2020

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11. Hal’s PPE production line

As the lockdown extension continues, our ingenuity and creativity continues to emerge in many different ways. Not least is the response from individuals who have answered the call to help produce Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for frontline staff.  This is exactly what East Devon engineer Hal Furneaux-Gotch has been doing with his wife Hannah, while working from home. In his spare time, Hal is using his technical skills to produce PPE using a 3D printer in his living room.

Talking about his production line, Hal explained:

I’m currently 3D printing visors parts to provide essential frontline staff with the PPE that is otherwise currently unavailable. I’m part of a network of volunteers with 3D printers all over the country called 3D Crowd UK, which sprung up at the start of the pandemic.

This network, which did not exist before Covid-19, currently has over 8,000 volunteers who are printing, assembling and delivering visors to those who need them, including NHS and care staff. There has been a successful crowdfunding effort to keep this scheme going, but as the money raised is largely being spent on parts that can’t be printed, as well as insurances and logistics, many volunteers are paying for the equipment themselves.

Personally, I have used all of the money I have saved from not having to commute in to work to pay for 3D printing filaments (thermoplastic material used for fused deposition modelling 3D printers). I have even bought a second printer to maximise production.

At the moment, I’m producing five visors per day, but I’m hoping to double that shortly – my total so far is 75. The printer is on all the time that I’m awake, and if it’s not printing ,it’s being maintained, which often means sacrificing lunch breaks to keep it going! Despite the large number of people creating this PPE, there’s currently an outstanding backlog of 500,000+ visors and we’re looking to start new local hubs for production/distribution, particularly in the Exeter area as the closest hub for whole of the south west at the moment is Frome in Somerset. I know that East Devon District Council is actively looking at its own sites to see if any would be suitable for hubs.