Working together to use technology to support the NHS

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Proud to share how we came together as a team and used technology to help NHS during COVID-19

Prompted by reading a BBC News article where some 1,400 3D printer owners pledged to use their machines to make face shields, Lead Software Engineer, Richard Barker, investigated to see whether we could enlist the 3D printers we have in the TechHub in our Midlands Delivery Centre, to be able to produce PPE,  to help the NHS in the current pandemic.

This is where it all began

Richard spoke to me about this and I, in turn, started building a team of 3D printing experts – Jon Williams, Andy Hunt and Joe Haslam. Rich then went ahead and registered our 3D printing capability with 3DCrowd UK – a voluntary community of 3D printer owners who are collectively producing thousands of face shields to address the low supply and high demand of PPE in the UK. Word spread to the Telford Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) team (who also have a 3D printer in the TechHub) and soon Andy Milne, Gareth Roberts and Luke Maxfield were part of the team. Bravo!

Our team started using the 3D printers to produce face shields for the NHS. Believing in every bit matters, production began on Friday 3 April and so far around 200 face shields have been produced. We are glad that Capgemini supported us in this initiative by not just letting us use the printers, but also covering the cost of all materials required to print the face shields, giving us a stronger boost!

It was great to see the speed with which the team came together and worked through the standard operating procedure to achieve the correct level of hygiene and got the printing process underway. The team showed great flexibility with Andy Hunt taking one of the printers home for the first week with a rota planned for future weeks, to ensure work does not stop. We were not stopping now!

In case you are wondering how this works, the 3D printers use PLA (polylactic acid) which is commonly available as a 3D printable plastic filament. The team used a file containing the printing template for the PPE – which essentially contains instructions for the printer – and this has been adapted and optimised by our Capgemini 3D printing experts.

Once the first batch of face shields had been printed, we sent them to 3DCrowd UK’s central distribution hub in Sheffield. It is from here that DPD will then collect and deliver the protective face shields for free to hospitals, GPs, pharmacies, paramedics and other social care practices. The 3DCrowd have moved to a local distribution model with a distribution centre based in Wolverhampton and Rich Barker has volunteered as a local Shropshire coordinator to allow us to fulfil requests for PPE from local hospitals, health centres, GP’s and care homes. Another example of how we did all we could.

This initiative is particularly close to my heart as my wife worked as a nurse for many years and, although now in an operational management role, she’s volunteered to go back onto the frontline if required. Like many of her colleagues treating patients with Covid-19, she relies on PPE for her personal safety and it’s in short supply. When I saw the 3DCrowd initiative and Rich contacted me to ask about the 3D printers in the TechHub, I knew we had to get involved. Support for the idea was excellent from the TechHub 3D printer community and our APS colleagues. Within a day or two, we were producing parts for the face shield. When I tweeted what we were doing, we had so many messages of support. Great team spirit!

 As I sought Capgemini UK executive sponsorship the message spread out across the wider organisation and out of the blue I was contacted by Matthew Cooke who is the Chief Clinical Officer for Capgemini in the UK. , It turns out that Matthew is a working NHS clinician and his wife and daughter are nurses. His daughter actually works with my wife at Warwick hospital, small world. His wife has already been using a 3D printed face shield, and he was going to be working at the new Nightingale hospital, where he will also be heavily dependent on PPE. When he got to know what the team was doing, he wanted to thank everyone involved in the 3D printing initiative and when this is all over, will come to Telford and thank us all personally.. Matthew also offered to get us connected with local hospitals so we could work for them too. It was great to get this support and encouragement!

I would like to make a special mention of and extend a big well done to everyone involved in making this happen and supporting the production of this much-needed equipment: Rich Barker, Jon Williams, Andy Hunt, Joe Haslam, Fiona Loftus, Andy Milne, Gareth Roberts and Luke Maxfield.

Andy H, Gareth and Luke got the production line rolling amazingly quickly while Fiona has been contacting some local health organisations to draw their attention to this alternative supply source. It makes me so happy to share that we also have employees like Roelof Kleinsmiede and Jason Andrews who are also helping by not just by dedicating their time, as we all are, but also using their own personal 3D printers to build the 3DCrowd masks.

I must also add, we are not just printing facemask components. We have a number of people, such as Tobi Flanders, who, with their own 3D printers, are supplying immediate friends and family with other helpful 3D printed articles such as earsavers. These are another critical component that sit on the back of the head and hook onto the elastic from the surgical style facemasks, taking pressure and soreness from the back of peoples’ ears over the prolonged wearing.

Here is what Andy Hunt, Senior Solution Architect has to say about the experience, ‘I  knew I had to get involved and do as much as I could and I was compelled for many reasons – firstly, my wife too, like Les’s wife, works in the NHS as a neuro-physiotherapist and that was a natural draw for me to be a part of the team to help the NHS. Me and my wife both had to self-isolate as I was suspected of COVID 19 and my wife is vulnerable due to asthma. Meanwhile, all her colleagues were being asked to undertake frontline support roles instead of their normal physio functions. She had genuine angst when she was doing video calls with her team and none of them had access to any PPE.  I knew the more I could print the better it was, so I drove to work picked up our Dremel 3D Printer and started printing day and night and I’ve printed 100 units in 2 weeks.  My wife has also been my tester and quality control for trying the comfort of some of the PPE variants 3DCrowd being the winner in that area.’

I am proud to say that the team will continue to use its 3D printers to print PPE as demand for this equipment soars. We have now rallied support from other parts of Capgemini such as the London Applied Innovation Exchange (AIE) as well as encouraging supplier partner firms to get involved and we are happy to see increasing support for us!

You can help!

If you or someone you know has a 3D printer, they could help to produce face shields which are a vital piece of equipment for NHS staff and other healthcare providers. Please ask your contact to consider registering on the 3DCrowd UK website and feel free to ask Rich Barker for guidance or assistance.

Additionally, if you know of a local organisation which needs this equipment, they can also register on the 3DCrowd UK website.

 

Author


Les Frost,

Senior Technical Architect

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