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Library staff print PPE shields to tackle shortage

Antoinette Spicer
3D Printed Screen
3D Printed Screen  Christchurch City Council

Staff across Christchurch libraries are utilising 3D printers to create protective face shields for community groups and frontline medical workers.

The Christchurch libraries are geared with new technologies and equipment such as laser cutters and 3D printers.

Ordinarily, the printers are used for after-school programmes and other workshops, however, since the closure of the library last month, staff have teamed up with local organisations to resolve the shortage of protective equipment (PPE).

Christchurch City Council Head of Libraries and Information, Carolyn Robertson, said several of the technology-focused staff had put their hands up to support the ShieldsUp initiative.

ShieldsUp is a volunteer project that unites a network of 3D parts makers around the country to help provide alternative PPE shields for health workers. The 3D printer operators can download a free open source design to print the frame that holds the PVC or PET plastic shields.

Hundreds of orders for the shields have already flooded in from across the country.

“Following a nationwide online call by a 3D printer supplier for support for the initiative, our staff have taken up the challenge to help shield first responders and other health workers from COVID-19,” Robertson said.

“Thanks to our excellent collaboration with Cebelio, a local company that supplies the screen components, our first batch is ready to be delivered to a group of Christchurch midwives. 

"Cebelio sent us 20 shields. 13 frames that hold the PVC or PET plastic shields have been printed with the remaining seven still in progress. These were printed on CCC libraries' 3D printers, in staff homes as our libraries are closed.”

Robertson explained the decision to print the masks was “an obvious at-home option for staff” as the library already had the technology, knowledge and printers to use.

“It takes a couple of hours to produce each shield frame … our protection production line is certainly powering up,” she said.

Robertson also confirmed further PPE options were in the pipeline, such as strap spacers that ensure face masks sit more comfortably.