Gisborne families have been helping those on our front-line 24/7, all while in isolation.
The Covid-19 lockdown has been busier than ever for this hard-working crew.
Since April 18, the group have been producing 3D printed face shield frames at home.
They are making close to 50 a day at peak production and have made about 700 frames so far.
EIT Tairāwhiti computing and technology lecturer Steve Main was contacted by friend Rex Richards, who works in logistics for Hauora Tairāwhiti.
Tasked with supplying personal protective equipment for Gisborne’s frontline health staff, and anticipating a potential shortage, Rex went looking locally for alternatives.
“It was becoming increasingly difficult for them to get hold of the volume required to supply the hospital and community health staff,” said Steve.
“Rex knew I worked with 3D printers and, in particular, they were looking for a visor frame that used no elastic and had a nose bridge.
“Fulfilling this requirement would make the 3D printed frames similar to what staff were already accustomed to and easier to disinfect.”
That led to Steve looking for potential designs online while Rex discussed the options with his manager Scott Saunders.
Steve then enlisted friend and student Matthew James, who also had a 3D printer at home.
“We set out and started printing two prototypes. Matthew made one small change to the nose bridge design. Both prototypes were well received by the hospital.
“When we discussed volume, they said they would take as many as we could produce.
“It was evident we needed more printers.”
Steve contacted another friend and avid 3D printer user/owner Maarten van den Heuvel, who gladly offered his services with help from his son Jeroen (14).
Two of Steve’s children, Aaron (15) and Amy (12) have also been helping.
“Our printers are going 24 hours a day. We are up all hours of the night removing frames, finishing them and readying our machines for the next print.”
Maarten contacted friends, dentist Nitish Surathu and Dustan Dowsing, who both had printers, and who happily joined the group.
“Securing printing material was the next issue we encountered. There’s a nationwide shortage of the plastic filament the frames are made from. We contacted so many suppliers, but the supply was nearly exhausted.
Matthew had a contact who had rolls in stock in the South Island, enough to keep the group in supplies for now.
“Nitish and his son Neeraj have been using Amber Dental’s 3D resin dental printer and have donated over $1000 worth of flexible resin to make frames for the hospital.”
EIT Tairāwhiti campus director Jan Mogford and campus manager Waata Shepherd contacted Steve to see how EIT could help and offered to donate any consumables required until the district goes to Alert Level 2.
Steve says the work has been rewarding.
“It feels good to know you are doing your bit to help the front-line staff in the community.”
Other Gisborne-East Coast people with 3D printers have been taking part in the national campaign called Shields Up, where headband style frames are being created in their homes for front-line workers.
Hauora Tairāwhiti chief financial officer Craig Green said it was a great story of organisations working together for their communities.
“Hauora Tairāwhiti has supported EIT with decommissioned computer hardware and now they have been able to support us in our time of need.
“This is a typical Gisborne example of connections and a close community working together, all started by a casual phone call from Rex to Steve at EIT.”