Volunteers from the School of Architecture and the Department of Computer Engineering and Mathematics have started to use 3D printers to produce facemasks, which are one of the materials most requested by healthcare staff during the current COVID-19 emergency. Five engineers and architects at the University are putting the printers to work day and night to provide materials that are then sent to Coronavirus Makers, a volunteer organisation operating throughout Spain that brings together thousands of people online to try to provide a response to this exceptional need. The masks are officially approved by the Department of Health of the Catalan Government and protect the whole face from possible droplets in the air and thus from the possibility of contracting COVID-19
One of the volunteers is Tomàs González, professor at the Department of Computer Engineering and Mathematics (DEIM) at the University, who has been using the department’s 3D printer to make an average of 8 masks every day. They also work with four other printers belonging to the Tarragona Google Developers Group, which has close ties to the University. They collaborate with three members of the group: the IT engineers Vanessa Galcerà, Jordi Rodríguez and the architect Anna López, all alumni of the URV. With these printers they are manufacturing 50 pieces of equipment a day. The group works in collaboration with Carles Barberà, professor at the DEIM, who works to obtain the materials needed so that the production process is not interrupted. “Being faced with a lack of materials, the other day I managed to obtain 12 kilos of plastic thread, which mean that they are now able to continue making personal protective equipment”, he explained.
Coronavirus Makers channels the requests that it receives to teams of volunteers and distributes the equipment that they produce to healthcare staff, elderly care home workers, police forces and civil protection units, among others. Also collaborating with this national organisation are members of the URV’s services and administrative staff, Xavier Blanch and José Rodríguez, from the Department of Electronic, Electrical and Automatic Engineering and Jaume Pros, from the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Together they add a further 6 printers to the total, including 3 from the URBots robotics association at the School of Engineering, one from the Computer Engineering Department and one from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the URV. The production of one mask takes up to two and a half hours, which means they are able to produce and average of 15 units a day.
The School of Architecture has made its own contribution to combatting the coronavirus crisis, with professor and researcher Albert Samper using the School’s 3D printer to make a total of 30 masks at his home, which will help to cover the needs of the Intensive Care Unit at the Sant Joan Hospital in Reus.