International Collaboration, 3D Printing Ends PPE Shortages in Nigeria

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Researchers from the University of Sussex and their partners in Nigeria used open source design and 3D printing to alleviate shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) for a community in Nigeria during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent study. In their article in PLOS Biology, Dr Andre Maia Chagas from the University of Sussex and Dr Royhaan Folarin from Olabisi Onabanjo University (Nigeria), explained how their collaboration led to the production of over 400 pieces of PPE for the local hospital and surrounding community, including those providing essential and frontline services. This included face masks and face shields, at a time when a global shortage meant it was impossible for these to be purchased by traditional businesses.

As part of their collaboration, they leveraged existing open source designs detailing how to manufacture approved PPE. This enabled Nigerian researchers to procure, build and use a 3D printer and begin producing and distributing protective gear for use by the local community. Plus, it was affordable. A 3D printer operator and assembler produced on average a face shield in 1 hour 30 minutes, costing 1,200 naira (£2.38), and a mask in 3 hours 3 minutes, costing 2,000 naira (3.97 £). By comparison, at the time of the project, commercially available face shields cost at least 5,000 naira (£9.92) and reusable masks cost 10,000 naira (£19.84).

Dr Maia Chagas, a bioengineering researcher at the University of Sussex, said: “Through knowledge sharing, collaboration and technology, we have been able to help a community through a global health crisis. “I am truly proud of the tangible difference we have made at a critical time for this community. As PPE was in high demand and inventory was low, prices for surgical masks, respirators and surgical gowns rose, with issues related to exports and international distribution.

“We quickly realized that alternative means of producing and distributing PPE were needed. Free and open source hardware (FOSH) and 3D printing quickly became viable options.” We hope that our international collaboration during the pandemic will inspire other innovators to use technology and share knowledge to help solve societal problems, which have typically depended on funding or support from government or major research institutes.

“With open source designs, knowledge sharing, and 3D printing, we have a real opportunity to start solving problems from scratch and empowering local communities and researchers.” Dr Droyhaan Folarin, Neuroscientist and Lecturer in Anatomical Sciences at Olabisi Onabanjo University in Nigeria, said: “During the pandemic, we have seen the successful printing and donation of PPE in the Czech Republic by Prusa Research and it became a goal for me to use the training I had received at previous TReND in Africa workshops to help impact my immediate community in Nigeria.”

The international collaboration is the result of the TReND in Africa Network, a Sussex-based charity that supports science capacity building across Africa. After the first use, testers provided feedback praising the innovativeness, usefulness and aesthetics of the PPE and, although the team’s 3D printer was not designed for mass production on a large scale, they identified the possibilities for several 3D printers to operate in parallel, in order to reduce production time. During the pandemic, this was successfully demonstrated by Prusa Research, which produced and shipped 200,000 CE-certified face shields.

(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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