By Grace Jin and Dorothy Jones-Davis
What’s a maker? The definition is broad: anyone who creates, builds, or innovates. That means almost all of us are or have been a maker—whether by assembling furniture, creating a painting, sewing a dress, building a birdhouse, or 3D printing critical relief supplies for those in need. During the COVID-19 crisis, being a maker means you can help save lives.
Makers, sometimes working in tandem with engineers, from communities around the world are mobilizing during the pandemic, volunteering their time and skills to produce the much-needed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that helps keep healthcare professionals and essential workers safe from COVID-19 exposure. The Open Source Medical Supply (OSMS) Group reported that as of April 20, 2020, makers have produced nearly 4 million items in 47 countries, with 2 million units in the United States alone.
This monumental effort requires hard work and personal sacrifice behind the scenes. To give makers the spotlight they deserve, GetUsPPE.org and Nation of Makers are launching a new blog series: Maker Mondays. Every Monday, we will feature a member of our maker community to celebrate their contributions in bolstering PPE supply. To launch the series, we’ll first discuss who is a maker, what tools they use, and how makers can get involved in the movement to get frontline workers the PPE they desperately need.
The COVID 19 Maker Challenge launched by the Veterans Health Administration Innovation Ecosystem and Challenge America.
Who is a maker?
Individual makers use their own materials and equipment to produce items, either at home or in makerspaces. In the case of PPE and medical supplies, some commonly used pieces of maker equipment include:
- Sewing machine (for cloth surgical face masks, mask covers, and gowns)
- 3D printer (for various PPE including face shields, medical devices, and parts)
- Laser cutter (for aerosol boxes)
- Computer numerical control (CNC), which controls and automates the movements of machines including routers, welders, milling machines, grinders, laser or waterjet cutters, robots, and many other machine types.
Some individual makers have organized into Facebook groups such as the Open Source (COVID19) Medical Supplies group, which sprung up to crowdsource solutions to address the PPE shortage. These crowdsourced groups have had an enormous impact on the design and availability of critical supplies around the world. Nation of Makers is a national nonprofit that supports all of the incredible local organizations and makerspaces that do this important work, through partnership development, resource sharing, and advocacy for makers.
Larger manufacturers have also shifted to make medical supplies, retooling their operations to match critical needs. As companies deemed non-essential pause operations, automakers, the aerospace industry, and sports companies, among others, have pivoted to make CPAP machines, ventilators, and PPE. Local businesses have also stepped up, repurposing their factories to produce masks, face shields, and reusable gowns.
How can makers help?
Get UsPPE.org and Nation of Makers have outlined four steps for makers to join our efforts:
1.Find a maker community near you and review important guidelines
Nation of Makers and Find the Masks have created a map of maker efforts. Find a maker group near you producing PPE, and get involved. Follow the most recent CDC/FDA guidance for staying safe and choosing designs before you start.
2. Register as a GetUsPPE Maker
Add yourself to our Maker Force and join others working to make PPE for facilities in need. Our form collects your contact information, affiliation with makerspaces or organizations, and the skills you have to contribute.
3. View medically-reviewed designs and make PPE
We provide a list of designs approved by the NIH, medical professionals from hospitals across the United States, and the Open Source Medical Supplies (OSMS) Review team for their utility and safety in healthcare settings. Donated or discounted raw materials are available in our supplier resources.
4. Deliver your maker-made PPE
Document your deliveries to help us track which organizations in our request database have received PPE supplies. This also allows us to quantify maker impact and celebrate your efforts!
As the fight against COVID-19 continues, we need solidarity to survive. Makers, engineers, and manufacturers embody the power of collective community action in this time of emergency. Our first maker spotlight is a group that’s doing just that: NOVA Labs, a makerspace in Reston, VA. Check back each Monday for highlights on new maker groups.
To anyone who is already stepping up as a maker, we are in awe of the difference you are making. We are grateful for your ingenuity and resilience, and the vital role you are playing to help our frontline healthcare workers stay safe.
Grace Jin is a blog contributor for GetUsPPE.org.
Dorothy Jones-Davis is a maker, scientist, and the Executive Director of Nation of Makers.