Published: 01st April 2020
This Kovai start-up has 3D printed about 1800 face shields to help medical workers tide over shortage during COVID-19 crisis
Virtual Frontier Robotics Private Limited started manufacturing the face shields to give additional protection. The masks are advisable for frontline workers
India now has 1590 confirmed cases of COVID-19 — rising every minute. While the rest of India stays home the frontline workers are risking their lives to treat the affected and save as many lives as they can. But are these warriors completely out of danger? A Coimbatore-based start-up is trying to help protect them — Virtual Frontier Robotics Private Limited is manufacturing 3D printed face shields. This gives additional protection so that the infection doesn't enter your body through the other parts of your face, which are not covered by your mask!
A computer-aided model is used to make a three-dimensional object, layer by layer. "The face shield consists of three main parts, an elastic, the headband and a shield. The headband is 3D printed, and the shield is either an OHP or a PVC sheet based on availability. After producing the headband, the other parts are assembled to form the face shield," explains Founder S Vigneshwaran. The headbands are made using PLA (Polylactic Acid) which is a biopolymer.
A closer view of the face shield
The team has distributed these shield to hospitals in Coimbatore and are facing huge demand from all over the country now. "3D printing is a slow process. It takes almost 90 minutes to manufacture one mask. Though we have ten 3D printers, we could hardly manufacture 200 masks per day," he explains and adds, "Whereas our demand is about 2000 masks per hospital."
The masks are not available for the general public, and it is primarily for frontline workers. "We don't give it to the general public because it is not a necessity for them. It is for the usage of hospital staff and people who directly interact with the infected person," he explains. The masks are sold at the manufacturing price ranging from Rs 125 to Rs 150.
With the lockdown enforced across the country, their company is shut. But the team had acted swiftly in advance and shifted the machines to their homes. "The printers are now working from our home, but still we could hardly meet with the demand. Hence we formed a community of 3D printers in WhatsApp and have asked the members of the group to meet with the need in case if we had an order from their locality," tells the 23-year-old.
Even if they manufacture, transportation is a hassle. "We are getting orders from Mumbai, Chennai and so on. But with the lockdown, we aren't able to transport, and hence we are planning to use Speed Post. But by the time it reaches, it might be too late," he shares. "Since the demand is growing every day, we are planning to make arrangements for injection moulding of these masks, but the lockdown has given us a challenging situation. However, we are trying to get a machine within a week and start manufacturing," he concludes.