Gef’s Good News: CrowdShield.im

Highlighting the global shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), it has reached the point in the UK where one NHS hospital contacted a ‘medical fetish company’ to procure disposable scrubs for their front line staff. But fear not, no one up Nobles will be walking around in assless chaps any time soon, thanks to initiatives like Crowdshield.im.

Crowdshield.im are a group of laser cutter and 3D printer owners across the island who are joining forces to produce PPE for our frontline staff.

We spoke to Will Faulds, the man running the show, to find out how all this came to be. 

Now, Will doesn’t actually have a 3D printer, nor does he own a laser cutter but, as a self confessed nerd who designs and engineers beverage equipment, he knows an awful lot about them.

You might recognise Will from the Apple Orphanage, which he and his partner Charlotte run. When the government announced only essential work must continue, they decided to stop production of their beverages (they see their apple juice as more of a luxury product) as they didn’t want to risk the health of anyone involved in their supply chain – a sensible couple.

Ok, so how did a guy who makes apple juice get involved with all this? Well, because Will owns a manx company, they’re on the Department for Enterprise (DfE’s) radar. Last week, when Will received an email from them asking if he had a laser cutter or 3D printer, his tail started wagging. Although, he told them, he did not have the equipment they were looking for, he explained he could still be of use because, like Liam Neeson’s character in Taken, he does have a very particular set of skills. Skills he has acquired over a very long career. Skills that make him the ideal person to help coordinate and facilitate a community effort like this. 

Already familiar with the process of crowdsourcing, having used it in the past to source produce for the Apple Orphanage, Will began rounding up troops. Manx word-of-mouth did what it does best, and in less than 4 days, CrowdShield.im had over 35 volunteers. People from all walks of life; a technical engineer at Manx Radio, a tutor from the college, two engineers from software development companies, and a stay at home carer (to name but a few).

We have visions of these people leaving their houses under the cover of darkness, heading down their paths to a shed at the bottom of the garden where, inside the nondescript building and under a sheet of cloth, sits an industrustrial sized piece of machinery. They pull away the material, unveiling their printers and/or laser cutters, turn on the power and get to working through the night. While we’re not sure exactly how accurate this scene we describe is, what we can be sure of is that these people are working bloody hard! 

Although Will’s primary focus is on coordinating the efforts of individuals involved, there are some big companies on board too; commercial businesses, engineering companies and even schools are contributing to this island wide effort, all of which is being overseen by the DfE and in consultation with senior clinicians.

So what exactly are they making? 

A company called Prusa was one of the first big names to act in this global pandemic. The Czech company very kindly removed the licencing on their design of a gold level standard face shield. A design approved by the DfE, which has allowed regular folk and commercial printers alike to produce the product. In only a couple of days, CrowdShield.im made 150 face shield straps and reinforcements for visors using this design. These face shields are being used in the most high risk situations and, to ensure stock levels are maintained for lower risk situations, CrowdShield.im are now focusing their production on a new and faster to produce design. 

This time, nice people at 3dverkstan, a Swedish company, have released their own free to use design; It’s 4 times quicker to make and produces a product at a third of the material cost. With this new design, CrowdShield will be able to make 200 face shield straps a day

CrowdSheild.im have consulted with the island’s senior clinicians to further develop the design to ensure it’s optimised for the specific procedures they will be used in – An example of how we, in the Isle of Man, are in a fortunate position whereby we’re able to spend time and resources to get the final design just right.

Now we want to be clear that there is no shortage of PPE on the island. We are not in a state of emergency like some other countries, however, there is an urgent need for PPE. The parts that CrowdShield.im are producing are feeding into the island’s PPE supply chain, being assembled into face shields, and are currently used by our front line workers.

You might be wondering – who’s funding all this? Well, so far, all parts produced by CrowdShield.im volunteers have been manufactured with raw materials that the volunteers already had in stock. In an ideal world the government would be able to source all the PPE we need, however, given we live in a less than perfect world right now, community efforts like CrowdShield.im are helping to ensure PPE is available much, much quicker.

In the next 2 weeks, CrowdShield.im will be producing over 4,000 straps and in order to procure enough raw materials for these they are seeking £10,000 worth of funding.*

*the government is able to fund this procurement but the process of making the payments to all individuals involved means significant delays would be incurred. These donations are a way of speeding up the process. Also, it’s a nice thing people can do to help, because right now, as the cast of High School Music once sang, we’re all in this together.

If you would like to help, or know of a company who would like to make a donation, please follow this link to CrowdShield.im’s JustGiving page. They’re totally transparent about how much money is being raised and where it’s being spent.

If you or a friend have a 3D printer or laser cutter and would like to get involved, please don’t go rogue. Stringent guidelines are being followed to ensure maximum safety & hygiene throughout production. Simply sign up here to volunteer and CrowdShield.im will get in touch with you asap to let you know how to get started.

We’d just like to say, from all of us here at Gef, a massive THANK YOU to the CrowdShield.im volunteers for all their hard work, it doesn’t go unnoticed! 

Shots are on us when all of this is over x

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