3D printed facemasks: an initiative developed by an EAE student to protect healthcare staff
16 de April de 2020
16 de April de 2020
Solidarity has proven to be the best weapon we have to fight the coronavirus pandemic and, with this in mind, every day new initiatives and proposals emerge that make their small contribution to relieve this complex situation. One such initiative has come from Rafael Vacas, a student on EAE’s Master in Agile Methodologies and Product Development and founder of Ideas Gráficas RV, who has used his knowledge of 3D printing to produce facemasks that he donates primarily to healthcare staff to protect them from the virus.
It all began a couple of years ago when one of my wife’s best friends, who have been living in Australia for years, came to Madrid to visit. She mentioned that her mother was clearing out their storeroom and was going to throw away the 3D printer that she used when she was studying architecture, which she has made herself. The way she put it was that “it is dismantled but it works. If you don’t want it, I’ll throw it away”. This little introduction is important because that is where it all started. I finished rebuilding the printer six months ago.
At my graphics centre, a friend called me to ask whether I had a plastic material that he needed pretty urgently. It has to be flexible but with a certain rigidity. I looked around the workshop and saw that the material we used to bind people’s theses met the criteria specified by my friend. I asked him what he needed it for and he told me that with these plastic sheets and a few pieces that could be made with a 3D printer, he could make facemasks for healthcare staff and their relatives, and they were trying to get hold of them.
I asked him to send the specification sheets and I discovered that I had all the material in the workshop. So, I set to work with the printer. It was running 24 hours a day for a few days, until I used up all the stocks of material that I had in the workshop. When I finished, I joked to my friend that, although I wasn’t Zara, I wanted to help in any way I could. In total, I produced 200 facemasks for our healthcare professionals.
I have to acknowledge that my family and friends have been the ones who have publicized this initiative. The people who know me best know that I don’t like to draw attention to myself, but I would like to thank them for everything that they have done, because this nice gesture is also their work.
We are a small family business with over 25 years’ experience. Despite being a micro-SME, we specialize in printing on all formats. Our clients include big companies in all sectors, such as FCC, Viena Capellanes, Facebook, Cepsa, etc.
We have donated these facemasks directly to hospitals. Healthcare staff were asking their relatives and friends to see if they knew of any company that could make facemasks of this kind, as they didn’t have this type of material. We distributed them in these hospitals to the people who were most exposed and who had no protection.
In my opinion, it all adds up. Of course. Doing the Master has helped me a great deal. It has given me a much broader and more technical perspective for developing the facemask project. To be able to make them faster when organizing the project I was working on, I have had to streamline some of the process, such as assembling the facemasks.
All the lecturers that I have had so far have contributed to my being able to make the masks, particularly those on the courses in Management 3.0 (Lucía Pérez) & Agile Leadership (Santiago Puebla Sanz), Framework of Reference & NPD Business (Francisco AstudilloPacheco) and, the one that helped me most of all, New Product Development (Giuseppe Emanuele Adamo). I have also been really lucky with my classmates, and I have learned a lot from them. I mustn’t forget to mention my team on the Master’s Theses. I have learned so much from my experience with them, especially in terms of organizing and streamlining the processes on a project.
We can all help in some way. Let’s not leave anybody out. All our contributions add up. In these times of crisis, our ingenuity is honed and we can transform our usual processes and business into new opportunities that meet the demands of the challenge we are facing. There are lots of us all taking small actions to help and this shows the solidarity and greatness of Spaniards. While it may sound trite, by working together, we will get through this!