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Istanbul, Turkey – Various sounds of whirring and beeping lead the way into a converted office in Istanbul.
Now filled with 3D printing machines and a packaging line, the space has been taken over by 3 Boyutlu Destek – meaning 3D support – in order to 3D print much-needed protective equipment for Turkey‘s medical staff.
3 Boyutlu Destek is a collective production movement, which started as the coronavirus pandemic hit Turkey in March.
The movement now boasts more than 3,500 volunteers spread across 81 cities in the country and about 4,500 3D printers.
Their primary production is face-shields, printing more than 25,000 in one week and then distributing to more than 250 hospitals.
Healthcare professionals are able to apply to the 3 Boyutlu Destek website in order to receive deliveries of the plastic coverings.
This volunteered assistance is welcome as Turkey has the most COVID-19 infections in the Middle East with nearly 128,000 cases, as well as more than 3,400 deaths.
On April 22, the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) announced 24 healthcare professionals died from coronavirus and 3,474 had been diagnosed with the corresponding disease, COVID-19. Of these cases, 2,005 were in Istanbul.
The Turkish Medical Association has regularly denounced the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) not only in Turkey, but across the world.
“Personal protective equipment is one of the most vital items in the delivery of health services, and this equipment has to be supplied to healthcare workers regularly, in sufficient amounts and in proper forms,” TTB stated in one of their recent news releases.
“Shortage of PPE is an unacceptable situation, and failing to supply it is itself a risk factor.”
3 Boyutlu Destek co-founder Ilker Vardarli, an engineer by trade, told Al Jazeera face-shields are the most demanded product from healthcare workers across Turkey, as they provide far more protection than regular cloth masks.
“When you are using a mask, you are only saving your mouth and nose, but when you are using a shield, you are saving your skin [and eyes]. When your hands go to your head, the face-shield protects these areas,” Vardarli explained.
Hospitals across Turkey were only able to provide face-shields to surgeons before the 3D printing collective commenced production, now each healthcare worker can have access to this protection by just making a request on the group’s website.
The face-shield was originally designed by Prusa 3D, a Czech 3D printing company, though was fine-tuned by Turkish-based volunteers in order to cut the time it takes to print from three hours to just one and a half hours.
Adding to the fast production of face-shields is a service from the Turkish Motorcycle Platform in Istanbul. At least 250 volunteers on bikes travel to producer’s homes in order to pick up the 3D-printed products, take them to the main office for packaging, and then they are on their way to hospitals for dispersal.
The 3D printer plastic – referred to as filaments – required to make the shields are also donated from supporters around the country. The entire operation is crowdsourced.
While 3 Boyutlu Destek is currently focused on face-shields to meet the demands of medical workers, it has also designed and printed other equipment.
Vardarli listed a number of products the collective has experimented with, ranging from a hands-free door opener, Venturi’s valves used for ventilators, and adapters to convert snorkelling masks into non-invasive ventilators.
Laryngoscopes, however, are the product healthcare workers have asked 3 Boyutlu Destek most for after face-shields. This device is placed in the patient’s mouth in order to view the throat and larynx, or voice box.
“This is a really important product because they need to use it for every patient and there isn’t enough time now in order to sterilise them,” Vardarli explained.
The 3D-printed laryngoscope is one-time use only and takes six hours to print.
“It’s not an optimal product because you can’t sterilise it, but you can use it in a time of shortage,” Vardarli said.
The majority of products 3 Boyutlu Destek are designing are non-invasive, otherwise, they would need to seek approval from Turkey’s ministry of health.
The emphasis of a volunteer community and open-source information sharing is of high importance to Vardarli, particularly when facing a global pandemic.
“If you are sharing your project through an open-source community, everyone can produce your product as soon as possible, at the same time, in different cities and locations,” Vardarli said.
“Our power is coming from open-source; this is a maker movement, you share what you produce.”
Volunteer Deniz Derman is working eight-hour days, printing and packaging face-shields alongside writing her thesis on bio-medical engineering.
Derman agreed 3D printing and information sharing is the best solution to provide PPE in various locations in the shortest amount of time.
“Seeing as coronavirus is a global problem, open-source is the best way forward. People all over the world can make something beneficial for doctors and healthcare professionals,” Derman told Al Jazeera.