Putting Avanade’s 3D printers to work to make PPE masks for healthcare workers in the Chicago area
- Posted on April 9, 2020
- Estimated reading time 3 minutes
As COVID-19 spread across the world, infecting thousands and growing into a pandemic, U.S. Midwest Infrastructure Lead Ray Koukari found himself feeling the way a lot of people did – helpless.
“I wanted to help out and give back, but I’m not a doctor, nurse, or trained medical professional, so the options besides donating money for supplies and food were pretty limited,” Ray explained. “One of the hardest parts of this isolation is doing nothing – I wanted to actually do something.”
As schools, offices and businesses closed during shelter in place orders, Ray heard of a woman and her son working on a design to 3D print personal protective equipment (PPE) masks. The World Health Organization has warned that there was a severe shortage of PPE masks for healthcare workers worldwide, calling on industries and governments to increase manufacturing by 40 percent. Ray immediately reached out to ask if he could contribute with his 3D printer but was disappointed to realize that his couldn’t make objects large enough to work for the design.
“After scouring the internet and realizing it would take weeks to get a 3D printer if I couldn’t find one locally, I reached out to Avanade’s Midwest Innovation Lead and asked if I could get into our Avanade Chicago office to borrow Avanade’s 3D printers,” Ray said. “After some coordination, I was able to get to work on the masks.”
It wasn’t immediately smooth sailing. Ray said that 3D printing is not what you see in the movies where you push a button and the object pops out in 30 seconds. The printers require a lot of fine tuning and attention, and he’s already had to replace a power supply, fix parts and unclog jams. But he’s gotten the machines to the point where he prints about two masks per hour throughout the day. As of the second week of April, he’s printed over 300 masks. Collectively, the community group he got the design from has printed and donated over 5,000 masks to hospital and medical staff in and around the Chicago area.
“The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive,” Ray said. “There have been multiple video messages from medical staff at several facilities, pictures and thank you emails as well from the hospitals themselves. It really has given me a sense of purpose and tied me back to my local community more than I was before.”
Ray added that while he has been blown away by the innovation happening quickly in the 3D space to figure out how to make these masks, it doesn’t take a 3D printer to pitch in and make a human impact.
“While I’m busy making face shield parts in my spare time, people who don’t have access to 3D printers are sewing elastic bands for masks, helping put everything together and making regular face masks for the general public,” he said. “Even once this need is met and medical workers have the supplies they need, I’m sure there will be other ways to help and get engaged.”