3D printers being used in Loulé to help in the fight against Covid-19

Algarve school community joins forces to make protective visors for doctors and nurses

School teachers and students in the Algarve are using 3D printers to make protective visors for those on the frontline of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Arlindo Martins, a teacher at Loulé’s high school, is producing visors at the town’s Palácio Gama Lobo. The location was provided by Loulé Council, which has also purchased two 3D printers as well as the items needed to make the visors.

The priority is to get them to doctors and nurses, followed by nursing homes and lastly the general public.

“After many days at home, I started thinking about making something with a 3D printer that could help in the fight against Covid-19,” said the teacher.

All it took was a quick search on Facebook for Arlindo to find the Movimento Maker group from Leiria, which at the time had 500 members and now has over 9,000. The group’s creator Bruno Horta was proposing that anyone with a 3D printer could start making visors to protect doctors and nurses.

“I downloaded the file and started printing them in my kitchen,” said Martins, who is also a member of the Loulé Rotary Club.

He was so happy with the way they turned out that he emailed his head of school, Renata Afonso, to ask if he could use the school’s 3D printer to “double production”.

“She accepted immediately, and I picked it up the next day (March 24) and started printing the visors with both,” he said.

A day later, he was contacted by the head of the council-led Loulé Criativo project, Marília Lúcio, as they had a 3D printer and wanted to help.

“I visited their headquarters and I realised that the best thing to do was bring all of the printers to the Palácio Gama Lobo and start printing there,” explained the teacher.

By Thursday (March 26), three 3D printers were being used from 8am until midnight to create protective visors – a number which by Monday had already increased to nine.

“Initially, the elastics were being provided by myself, but now the elastics and acetate are being provided mostly by the local council which has been making a huge effort to ensure we are not missing anything,” the teacher said.

Meantime, entities and companies have joined the cause such as Loulecópia, the University of the Algarve/CCMar, Casa Caracol-Loulé and 3D-WePrint4you as well as many other volunteers who have been providing the needed materials.

“I want to make it clear that all visors are free. I am not getting paid as I refuse to accept money in emergency situations,” he said.

Each 3D printer is able to produce between 10 and 15 visors a day, given that each visor can take between 70 to 100 minutes to make.

“We are working from 8am to midnight, although the printers work until 2am. They, just like us, need to stop in order to sustain this level of daily effort. However, I always think that with every hour that they aren’t producing, a life can be lost,” he lamented.

“Now, I understand the nerves of steel that health professionals must have. They are the true heroes in this uneven war.”

In the neighbouring borough of Faro, the Programming and Robotics Club of the Pinheiro e Rosa school group is also hard at work printing protective visors for health professionals.

“The war against this invisible enemy is forcing us to put ‘all soldiers’ at the frontline. We are doing our part, using our technical means and budget to protect those who make a difference saving lives,” says the club, which is working with health authorities to ensure the visors go to “those most in need”.

Anyone who has 3D printers or the needed items to make visors, such as 3D PETG or PLA filament, PVC binding covers, elastics, duct tape and sponges, and wants to help out can contact the club by email [email protected].

“With the help of everyone who can contribute to the safety of those who have to work, we will win,” the club says, adding that “breaking the chains of contagion now means saving lives of people who don’t know, do know or know well.”

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Teacher Arlindo Martins from Loulé delivered 11 protective visors to Dr Odete Cordeiro at the São Brás de Alportel health centre
3D printers being used in Loulé to help in the fight against Covid-19