Health care professionals across the globe are facing a serious scarcity of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). In fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called upon industries and governments to scale manufacturing by at least 40 per cent to meet the increasing demand globally.
Access to PPEs ensures that doctors are safe while treating COVID-19 patients. The absence of safety gear increases their chances of catching the virus from exposure, endangering their family members and perhaps those patients who might not be positive cases in the first place.
In India, Maker’s Asylum, an innovation hub, based out of Mumbai is making such face shields for health workers and currently supplying them to 20 hospitals in Mumbai.
The community space launched its crowdfunding campaign for ‘M-19’ face shields on the online crowdfunding platform Ketto about 10 days back and started supplying it on 29 March.
Makers Space started out by supplying 15 face shields on the same day. Now, they have almost reached their half-way mark by supplying about 54,051 face shields out of their 1 lakh target in a matter of 11 days!
However, this feat has not been achieved by Maker’s Asylum alone. To ensure fast distribution and localised manufacturing, they are working with about 12 labs across 12 cities like Pune, Jaipur, Rajkot, and Bengaluru, among others.
This has ensured the timely provision of vital protection for healthcare professionals across 50 hospitals in the country and frontline workers like policemen working in these crucial times.
How The Campaign Began
Led by co-founder and Mechanical Engineer Vaibhav Chhabra, the workstation at Maker’s Asylum works with 10 volunteers in every shift till midnight. They have alone supplied 13,486 face shields available at Rs. 55 per piece.
The best part about these shields is that they can be sanitised and reused helping the substantial reduction of bio-medical waste.
The idea to manufacture PPEs came to the founders when they read up on its increasing demand for health care professionals. “We would regularly host educational programs and workshops at Maker’s space which had to be cancelled. We had the time so thought why not innovate and come up with a solution in our small way to meet the scarcity of PPEs among health workers,” informs the 30-year-old.
Vaibhav along with three other core team members started researching online, designing, testing and making these face shields. They came up with 20 prototypes before finally choosing the best working design.
So, why did they choose to make face shields and not face masks or goggles?
Vaibhav emphasises that face shields are perhaps the most effective way to avoid transmission especially if exposure levels are high. “If you look at the transmission routes, almost 90 per cent of it is through the mouth, nose and the eyes. This shield protects you from spit and mucus particles, while also ensuring you don’t touch your face easily,” he says.
In addition to health workers, Mumbai policemen too have received about 2,000 of these M-19 face shields. While half of them have paid for it, the other half has been given away for free by Maker’s Asylum.
“The best part about the M-19 face shields is the scalability of its design. If you have a laser cutter, you don’t need to wait for anything else. As for the materials, one can easily find them at a local stationery shop. In fact, we have an excellent DIY video by kids who have made these,” says an excited Vaibhav.
How to Make Face Shields:
The raw materials required to make the face shields are:
OHP Sheets 175 Microns, A4 Size – 1/face shield
Foam Board – 8ft x 4ft (produces 239 headgears)
Elastic Band : 30cm/face shield
Foam Sticker – 6ft x 1ft (produces 1000 face shields)
A video explaining the step-by-step procedure to make the face shields has also been put out by Maker’s Asylum on their website.
How it Spread as a Movement
When Vaibhav and his team started making these face shields, they did not anticipate the support and the scale of growth fo their idea.
“We started making these face shields on the 26th of March and put out our requirement of 10 volunteers to help us make them. Luckily, the support was tremendous,” says Vaibhav.
One factor that Maker’s Asylum fully needed to take care of is ensuring they take serious measures to avoid any kind of contamination while the volunteers make the shields.
Maker’s Asylum adheres to the following steps as a protocol for every volunteer entering their workspace.
- Remove shoes and bags outside the lab
- Volunteers go straight to the toilets to wash their hands (until the elbows) and face using soap.
- Belongings like phones, water bottles and watches brought from outside need to be disinfected with sanitiser.
- Each volunteer then uses a fresh mask. They also put on the M-19 shields to test and protect themselves.
All labs collaborating with Maker’s Asylum are also following these steps while making these face shields.
“These labs heard about the work we were doing and got in touch with us for our design. In return, we have told them that they join our campaign and help us achieve our numbers and make our innovation accessible to those who need them,” informs Vaibhav.
Now, labs based in Italy, Australia, Kenya, and Boston have reached out to them for their design and ways they can scale up this innovation themselves. Vaibhav also informs that they are currently working on developing Powered Respirator Protective Suit (PRPS), a protective suit that can be used by medical professionals. They refused to divulge any more information beyond that.
With half-way through their targets of one lakh, Vaibhav says it’s a given that they are not going to stop at that. However, scaling up would require support from corporates and individuals alike. He adds that they also want to make these face shields accessible to ASHA workers in the rural areas as the need might emerge later.
“I did not think we would be able to even reach a target of 10k face shields. Now, we are hoping to collaborate with more labs and together, we can hopefully produce 40k to 50k face shields in a day. I hope we are able to provide 5 lakh face shields by the end of the campaign. We cannot stop now as it is time to fight the multiplying virus,” he says signing off.
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(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)