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3D printed face masks offered to essential services



thumbnail Rafael Calonge and Matthew Betts-277After seeing colleagues in Spain struggling to cope with the escalating numbers of Covid-19 cases, Northland man Rafael Calonge decided to help out health workers here by producing 3D printed face masks to add to stocks.

Although not practising now, Rafael is a nurse and his wife is a doctor. He said they both detected the worry that healthcare workers had about the lack of personal protection equipment available in New Zealand and decided to do something about it.

“We can all learn from what is going on in Europe by acting now. We don’t want to end up like in Spain, where 17 percent of the health workforce, have the virus.”

Rafael was inspired by a group in Spain, called CoronavirusMakers.Org who collaborate through an app called Telegram to share designs for 3D printed respirators and face masks.

So he set about finding a 3D printer, which was difficult because most businesses are in lockdown. He approached Matthew Betts, the manager of Cartridge World in Whangarei, who was open to the idea and came on board to help him produce ten masks so far using prototypes suggested and available to download on coronavirusmakers.org.

The next step was to offer the masks to Northland DHB. He spoke to one of the nurses at the Covid-19 Community Testing Centre in Whangarei to explain what he was doing and gave them some masks to test.

For Rafael and Matthew this project is altruistic and say the masks need to be free. If they produce enough, they hope to supply the police and supermarkets as well.

Rafael is now looking for other 3D printers to use locally, and support from web developers and CAD designers and would appreciate it if they get in contact with him to support.

Rafael encourages others to look into ways to help.

“I think that the most important point is trying to help the ones that need to be out of their houses as much as possible, as they provide the essential services. They are there for our safety and wellbeing: health workers, public services, supermarkets, cleaning services.”

One other thing he would like to emulate from Spain is to get New Zealanders to show their appreciation for essential workers by venturing outside every night to clap for them at 8pm.

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