A Polish couple have been praised for using their 3D printers to produce hundreds of protective visors for medical personnel during the current coronavirus pandemic.
Łukasz and Justyna Więcek from Zielona Góra in western Poland came up with the initiative to 3D-print masks in response to a government appeal for help from private entrepreneurs to manufacture medical supplies, reports Gazeta Wyborcza.
The Więceks run the Fabryka Pasji Foundation, who activity involved 3D-printing. They found a design for protective visors online which had been recommended by the Czech Ministry of Health.
With eight 3D printers at home, they began to manufacture the items. In a few days had produced 150 of them, which they donated free of charge, supplying an entire hospital in Zielona Góra and the local ambulance service.
Staff at the hospital’s emergency department expressed gratitude for the couple’s efforts. “This is incredible technology. In one day we have more of this type of equipment than we could have dreamed of before! It is impossible to describe our joy,” they wrote in a Facebook post.
The Więceks have been called heroes, but refuse to accept the accolade. “The heroes are there – in ambulances, in hospital departments and at borders,” Łukasz told Gazeta Wyborcza. “We just press the button and [after printing] add elastic for underwear.”
The couple are continuing to produce the masks, with printers operating 24 hours a day. Production has slowed a little as the design had to be enlarged because its headband proved painful to wear over time. But the Więceks aim to produce 1,200 masks within a month, enough to supply medical staff in the whole region.
Equipment is being provided first to those battling the emergency on the front lines, including ambulance crews, policemen and border guards. But the initiative has also received interest from hospitals across Poland, according to Noizz, a news website.
The Więceks have also launched a Facebook page with instructions on how to make the masks for others who want to help. A fundraising effort has also been launched, which has so far raised 17,036 zloty to go towards new materials.
Similar initiatives have emerged across Poland in response to the government appeal. Engineers from the Kraków-based firm Urbicum have developed a working prototype of a ventilator which can be constructed from parts made on home 3D printers. Production costs for the equipment, named VentilAid, can therefore be kept low, with each model costing only 200 zloty.
Urbicum, a manufacturer of 3D printers, say it took two days to develop the prototype. But company spokesperson Bartosz Wilk stressed to Noizz that the project is at an early stage and requires extensive clinical testing. He hopes that it will soon be available for use where classic ventilators are lacking, not only in developing countries.
The world is united against a common threat.
Great to see so much innovation, creativity and solidarity in the world.
I’m especially proud of my fellow Poles at @AidVentil, who have released designs for a cheap, 3D printed, open source ventilator!
— Stefan Tompson (@StefanTompson) March 24, 2020
Meanwhile, the Ostróda upholstery company has switched production to create masks. The owner of the factory said he would provide materials and templates to anyone who has a sewing machine and wants to help, reported Gazeta.pl.
Main image credit: SOR zgora/Facebook
Juliette Bretan is a freelance journalist covering Polish and Eastern European current affairs and culture. Her work has featured on the BBC World Service, and in CityMetric, The Independent, Ozy, New Eastern Europe and Culture.pl.