Four months ago it was hard to imagine how our lives were about to change. Most of us never expected that home was going to be the safest bunker to protect our families and help those bravely fighting COVID-19 on the front lines. For Softvisioners like Team Lead, Alexandru Gherghina the new reality was an opportunity to make a difference by 3D-printing 100 face shields and 30 masks for hospitals in Cluj and Bucharest, Romania.
Face shields are a key piece of equipment for healthcare workers operating in close contact with COVID-19 patients. These shields not only prevent direct exposure, but also extend the lifetime of the underlying N95 masks, which are also in short supply.
“Currently I am testing mask designs, modifying them and receiving a lot of feedback from a couple of doctors and a surgeon who are interested in them as last scenario devices,” says Alexandru.
His colleagues in Romania, iOS Developer, Andrei Neag and in the US Technical Lead, Mitchell Malpartida joined the initiative to make visors and face shields with additional protection to support their communities in Cluj and Las Vegas.
Cognizant Softvision Chief Architect, James Hartling is the key player in organizing and helping most of the volunteers. James first heard about how Hong Kong Polytech was using printers to make supplies in Hong Kong back in February 2020. Then, as Italy became more and more impacted by the virus, a huge groundswell of open-source designs emerged and people started contributing locally. James partnered with two other engineers in the Philadelphia area, Omer Dekel of Ontario Systems and Vikram Agrahar of PhillyDIY, and immediately the three started working on the problem systematically. They quickly formed an organization of volunteers covering production, logistics, QA, and marketing/fundraising that now includes more than 50 people in the region.
“Thus far we have supplied over 11,000 face shields and over 7,000 ear savers to over 250 groups and institutions. The majority of our work has centered in the Philadelphia and surrounding areas. However our reach extends much further, covering most of the Northeast region, and various other countries including Puerto Rico and Canada,” says James.
In addition to primary medical facilities, they have also supplied shields and ear savers to various markets, nursing homes, and other essential businesses and secondary care facilities. “It was clear to us that COVID-19 was going to impact those places and those people had zero chance of getting PPE through official means,” James adds.
With the support of so many others behind them and wanting to take their efforts one step further, the team has been exploring a face shield that does not require the use of a 3D printer. The idea behind the Open Source Face Shield was that it could be “very easily constructed by anyone with a pair of scissors.”
After calling for volunteers, Digital Product Manager Justin Hinh and Events Manager Shelby Reimer from the New York studio raised their hands.
“As I live in New York City, the epicenter of the outbreak in the US, I watched the city shut down as the virus spread. What could I do to help, even if just a small amount? Assembling the SimpleShield was an easy process, and I could do it in the evenings after work,“ Shelby says.
After distributing the shields to some nurses and doctors in her neighborhood, she received great feedback from them. “My small contribution was making a difference for our healthcare workers. That’s a great feeling.”
For Justin, the effort is as big as his commitment. “Coordinating between Softvisioners, medical professionals, and manufacturers is exhausting and exhilarating. I am shocked at just how low the supply chain is. I have doctors reaching out to me from across the country. Even though things look bleak at times, everyone understands that we are all in this together. So, why do I do this? Well, I have this vision I can’t get out of my head. In the future, my kids and grandkids will ask what it was like to live through the COVID pandemic. I want to proudly look them in the eye and tell them I did everything I could to help my community. And I hope they will do the same.”
Other Softvisioners, such as Office Administrator Lina Russell and Executive Assistant Rachele Bonzi, both of the Austin studio, Division Controller Jeanne Gulasarian from Philadelphia, and Architect Ben Green from Portland, have joined the movement. Further initiatives include Tech Coordinator Lorand Krucz from the Baia Mare studio who, after sending out the first shipment of face shields, shifted focus and started working on a prototype of a ventilator that uses 3D printer components.
“We have built an organization using many of the principles we employ at Cognizant Softvision,” James Hartling concludes. “Clarity of purpose, of roles and responsibilities, of communities and technology and delivery. And of partnership with our `customers,´ meaning those people fighting COVID-19 on behalf of all of us around the world.”
If you are interested in making the Open Source Face Shield design for the medical professionals in your community, visit https://open-face-website.now.sh/.