Twickenham man 3D-prints PPE parts from home shed to help protect NHS frontline staff

By Kassandra Jimenez-Sanchez
April 22 2020, 18.20

A Twickenham man converted his shed into a workshop for his 3D printers to help produce face shields for the NHS.

Jim McKeown saw that people were 3D-printing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) parts and decided to join more than 6,000 volunteers involved in the effort with 3DCrowd UK. 

3DCrowd UK coordinates a community of 3D printer owners who print shield parts, collecting and distributing them all over the UK.

To buy the materials that he needed, he created a JustGiving page to raise £1,000 without imagining it would get to over £6,000 in just a week.

Mr McKeown, 45, said: “I thought it would help a bit, but I didn’t realise how much of a difference it was making.”

Because of the coronavirus pandemic the film he was working in the props department for was put on hold, and his work cannot be done from home.

After joining 3DCrowd UK he was given instructions on how to produce face shield parts. 

The father-of-two set up four machines in his 5x3m shed at home and transformed it into an improvised workshop adding heating and cameras on the ceiling to check on them.

Mr McKeown said: “If my printers are sitting there in a locked up workshop I might as well bring them back and get them going, once you press start, they’ll start printing.”

The machines run day and night printing 16 parts a day, aiming to print 112 parts a week. 

Because the headbands are going to hospitals, there are just a couple of materials that can be used, and with the growing demand, it’s getting harder to get them, Mr McKeown explained.

He said the delivery times are getting longer, taking four days instead of the usual 24 hours.

With the extra money raised on his JustGiving page, he is also buying materials for 20 other machines around south west London.

Friends and family think what he is doing is great, but only he can be involved in the production as it has to be done carefully.

When a batch is ready, with gloves on, they are stored in a sealed bag, and labeled with the printing date. The parts are then sent to the closest 3DCrowd UK hub.

There they are assembled, a clear plastic film is placed on the front and elastic attached to the back to hold it in place and they wait for 72 hours before being distributed.

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