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3D printing on the COVID-19 frontline

Frontline healthcare workers fighting COVID-19 have been thrown a lifeline by the region’s 3D-printing community, which is producing thousands of face shields for at-risk medical staff.
Led by experts from the University of Southern Queensland (USQ), the Toowoomba-based group plans to make 300 shields within the next few weeks.

It comes after more than 70 per cent of Queensland doctors reported having insufficient Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) in a survey released by the Australian Medical Association (AMA) Queensland earlier this month.

The state-wide shortage prompted local 3D printing business-owners to rally together to tackle the issue.

USQ 3D printing expert Stephanie Piper said making sure the shields could be used multiple times was vital.

“It’s more economical, quicker and safer for medical staff if we make the PPE reusable,” Ms Piper said.

“It means we have less waste, and fewer people going without.”

Each face shield takes around 1.5 hours to print, and is comprised of two main parts; a headband and an A4 sized plastic sheet which attaches to the headpiece.

“Face shields are different from facemasks because they cover the mouth and nose as well as the eyes, making them more resistant to sprays,” Ms Piper said.

“As soon as we received the approved face shield prototype it was all systems go.”

“So far, we’ve had help from the Australian Defence Force, Tick Tock Toowoomba Escape Room, Reality 3D Printing, Vital Image Graphics, RDH Integration Services and more.”

Darling Downs PPE, as the group has come to be known, is working around the clock to supply the equipment.

Dr John Lamb, a General Practitioner at Toowoomba’s 7 Springs Medical Centre, said the additional PPE would be gratefully received by frontline staff.

“An overwhelming number of patients are turning to medical centres every day which is having a significant impact on our supplies,” Dr Lamb said.

“We still have a long way to go in the fight against COVID-19, but this project is a massive help for us in ensuring our staff are safe and protected.

“What’s more, this is a sign of how strong our community is, and, I think, a sign we can get through this together.”

doctor holding 3D printed face shield
Led by experts from USQ, a Toowoomba-based 3D printing group is making face shields for at-risk medical staff.