Heroes behind the 3D masks

James Davison is using 3D printing to help fight COVID-19. Photo: Damjan Janevski

Goya Dmytryshchak

A Williamstown coffee roaster has joined a group of community-spirited “makers and hackers“ using 3D printing to help save lives in the coronavirus pandemic.

James Davison is among a group of innovators using 3D printers, laser cutters and other manufacturing equipment at the FAB9 makerspace in Footscray to create face masks and shields for medical personnel fighting COVID-19.

“We’re trying to get as much of this stuff ready to go before we have our maximum caseload so that we’re better prepared,” Mr Davison said. “It could potentially save a lot of lives.“

He hopes others will get involved in the global movement using 3D printing technology to create personal protective equipment, hands-free door openers, test kit swabs and other medical equipment using open-source designs posted on the internet by HP, Formlabs and other tech companies.

One of the innovators in the COVID-19 making movement has been 3D printer pioneer, Joseph Prusa, whose open-source design for an RC2 face shield has been approved by the Czech Ministry of Health.

“Prusa’s open-source project makes 3D printers for everybody, so guys like myself can download his design or one of a number of designs for masks or face shields and hit ’print’ and you’ve got that sitting in your living room,” Mr Davison said. “It’s decentralised manufacturing.”

FAB9 was founded by former Silicon Valley product manager, Hans Chang.

“The current pandemic has made clear the incredible benefits that can come from a community of makers and hackers like ours, who can quickly come up with inventive ideas that often provide life-saving solutions,” Mr Chang said.

“People who like to make things in their spare time tend to be warm-hearted, community-minded people who can be very generous in times of need.”

Mr Chang and his colleagues recently responded to a federal government tender to promote domestic production of medical protective equipment through makerspaces across Australia to increase the national capability to fight COVID-19 and other future pandemics.