Ontario-based tech firm to mass-produce 3D-printed face shields for healthcare workers

Kitchener, Ont.-based tech company Inksmith says it’s ready to mass-produce face shields that will protect frontline health care workers against the coronavirus.

Governments around the world are taking action to mobilize and facilitate more production of medical equipment and other supplies in the wake of COVID-19. Frontline health care workers are facing shortages of critical care equipment such as masks and face shields, which leaves them with no choice but to accept unorthodox solutions with open arms during this difficult time.

Inksmith recently decided to use its existing infrastructure and tools to create personal protective equipment (PPE) face shields for health care workers in Ontario.

The company says it can design two types of (PPE) face shields, reusable face shields and 3D shields designed for single-day use.

“It’s reusable, it’s adjustable. A lot of the solutions they’re getting right now are one day use and then disposed of. Our system can be washed and then sanitized, which will make it a lot less expensive for the healthcare system,” Inksmith told CBC this week, referring to the laser-cut shields.

The second version that contains a 3D printed headband and reinforcement pieces, designed by Prusa3D, is currently available in limited quantities since it takes a longer time to produce them. These 3D print face shields will be donated to underfunded hospitals and health care providers, the company noted on its website.

In a blog post earlier this week, Inksmith made an urgent call to all 3D printer owners in the Waterloo Region to help it produce PPE face shields to fight COVID-19, adding it specifically needed help producing the 3D printed parts to fast forward the process of producing 3D print face shields

“If you or someone you know has a 3D printer we would greatly appreciate any help printing these files. We will take care of assembly and provide the clear face shield and elastic head strap,” the blog post reads.

Since publishing its concept online, Inksmith has been blown away with inquiries and feedback about its PPE face shields, and donations to help fast-forward the production of 3D printed masks. Multiple news outlets have since reported that Inksmith got the green light from Health Canada to mass-produce the laser cut face shields. IT Business reached out to Health Canada for comment, but they were not immediately available.

From six 3D printed masks per day, Inksmith, with the support of the community, is now producing 8,000 printed masks a day.

“And that’s nowhere what we need, either,” Jeremy Hedges, the president and founder of Inksmith, told CBC. “The scale of this is huge.”

The process will go commercial as soon as the face shields go into mass production, Hedges said.

The computer-aided design model file created by Prusa3D with the recommended print settings for slicing has been made available in the same blog post. The company’s plans stay open source which makes it possible for anyone with access to the right equipment to make their own.

Tridome Structure, an emergency buildings and triage area provider for medical centres, has also come forward to support Inksmith by constructing an emergency temporary emergency structure in Inksmith’s parking lot. This structure will act as a sanitation facility.

Any 3D printed parts received by the company will be properly disinfected and sanitized before assembly and delivery to hospitals. From there, Inksmith says the hospitals will undergo their own procedures for cleaning the PPE face shields.

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Pragya Sehgal
Pragya Sehgal
Born and raised in the capital city of India - Delhi - bounded by the river Yamuna on the west, Pragya has climbed the Himalayas, and survived medical professional stream in high school without becoming a patient or a doctor. Pragya now makes her home in Canada with her husband - a digital/online marketing fanatic who also loves to prepare beautiful, healthy and delicious meals for her. When she isn’t working or writing around tech, she’s probably watching art films on Netflix, or wondering whether she should cut her hair short or not. Can be contacted at [email protected] or 647.695.3494.

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