Editor’s Note: Certain questions have been raised by readers about the authencity of the claims made by the company Boson Machines. We are verifying the doubts raised, and the article will be updated if any clarifications or factual errors are confirmed.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the world to its knees. And in the line of fire are doctors, nurses, healthcare workers passionately and devotedly racing against time, trying to help those infected by the virus.
Fortunately, they are not alone in this war. Many individuals, groups, and corporate houses from a range of fields are extending a hand of help to all those working at the frontlines.
One such group is Boson Machines, a 3D printing start-up based in Mumbai. It was when Arjun and Parth Panchal, brothers, engineers and co-founders of the start-up, were thinking of ways their expertise could help during the COVID-19 crisis that Dr Swapneil Parikh, an alumnus of Jaslok Hospital, approached them. Dr Parikh was associated with Jaslok Hospital until 2017, when he left to set up a private clinic.
“I am an Internal Medicine Specialist and have been studying Coronavirus since January this year. As a medical professional, it was clear to me that the disease is going to spread quickly across the world and so, contingency plans were necessary,” Dr Parikh shares with The Better India (TBI).
In his search for Mumbai-based multidisciplinary professionals willing to contribute to the society by fighting the virus, Dr Parikh came in touch with the brothers at Boson Machines.
“Using 3D printing technology, we, together with Dr Parikh, decided to make face shields for the use of doctors and nurses,” Arjun tells TBI. Within a week, Boson Machines supplied nearly 5,000 shields to Mumbai hospitals.
Frontline Soldiers without Adequate Equipment:
The utility of face shields is high considering that an N95 mask covers the nose, mouth and chin, with large parts of the face uncovered.
Boson’s plastic face shield can protect the wearer if an infected person sneezes, or coughs near them. Speaking to the Indian Express, Parth said, “We went to the hospital for three days, worked on three to four iterations of the design and sat with a panel of five to eight doctors to finalise the design of face shields as recommended by them. Once that was done, we started production of 20 to 30 3D printed face shields.”
“The safety gear is not just limited to doctors. Everyone from the doctor to sweepers needs what we call the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). These include masks for protection of nose and mouth, face shields to protect eyes and other parts, cap to protect hair as well as a gown. Complete external protection is crucial when it comes to a disease as contagious as COVID-19,” says Dr Parikh.
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He also informs how the entire process from the first design, prototype to final design and production was done in just under 7 days.
“The mask is made of PVC and is designed to cover the face, earlobes and extend beyond the chin and up to the chest. This is to provide extra protection to the user. The plastic needs to be discarded after use but when it comes to healthcare professionals who are not in direct contact with COVID-19 patients, the plastic can be sterilised and reused,” adds Arjun.
Cost & Production of the COVID-19 Face Shields:
Boson Machines is a small team and currently, about 14 people are operating machines to make as many face shields as possible. “The start-up is about three years old but this is the first time we have entered the medical field. Keeping in mind how delicate the COVID-19 situation is, we need to be very careful. We have 60-70 automated machines operating and each machine takes up to two hours to make one face shield. Our current capacity is between 500-800 pieces a day,” Arjun tells TBI.
But the clock is ticking and thousands of doctors and nurses are in need of such equipment every day. As of now, 1,251 Coronavirus cases have been confirmed in India and unfortunately, the disease shows no sign of slowing down currently. Sadly, medical professionals in Mumbai hospitals, and across India, are facing a shortage of N95 and surgical masks.
India cannot afford to have her health professionals contracting the virus during this critical time.
“Jaslok hospital, where I underwent training, had approached me to get 2000 face shields. Later, Kasturba hospital had the same requirement and Boson has been doing the job well,” says Dr Parikh.
— Arjun Panchal (@IndianPatriota) March 28, 2020
The Municipal Corporation of Mumbai has also backed the project and soon, a bigger factory for Boson Machines may open where more machines and manpower could operate.
“They want us to make 8000 pieces a day. We mandate all our machines to be sanitised and operators to wear gloves and masks at all times. These precautions will continue in the bigger production set up too,” Arjun clarifies.
When asked about the cost, the engineer tells us that they are currently selling the shields to private hospitals at a rate of Rs 150-200 per sheet subject to the quantity ordered. Separate plastic sheets are sold at Rs 40. However, they are providing the shields to government hospitals free of charge.
“We all need to be safe or no one is safe. And this is the time for action. With people like Arjun and Parth who don’t come from the medical field but are happy to help, we can do this together,” says Dr Pareikh, and we could not agree more. Only united efforts can help India tackle COVID-19.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)