Coronavirus volunteers make hospital visors

21 April 2020

Interview with 

Julia Citron, Makespace

Makespace_visor

A Makespace volunteer wearing a plastic face visor.

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Beyond the efforts of healthcare staff and other key workers, many other people around the world have been volunteering their time and resources in the fight against COVID-19. Here in Cambridge, crafters from the Makespace community workshop have been busy engineering thousands of plastic visors for the local Addenbrooke's hospital. Katie Haylor spoke to Makespace volunteer Julia Citron...

Julia - One of the engineers who's part of our community works with Addenbrooke's Hospital and we got in touch with them to find out what it was that they really needed, and that they didn't have yet. The first thing that came to the top of the list was plastic visors.

Katie - What's the actual production process?

Julia - It's like a mask, a face shield. It's got a simple foam band around your forehead and then some sort of rigid plastic that goes to just under your chin, and it's tied together by some elastic behind your head. It's very simple. The plastic parts are cut on the laser cutter, somebody cuts the foam strips on the bandsaw and then another person staples the elastic, and then there's a very careful quality assurance process to make sure there are no sticking out staples, or bits that aren't fastened properly.

Julia - And then a very careful packaging process, where we have to put on labels saying that the elastic has latex and things like that. We worked with Addenbrooke's to create a document that spells out in a lot of detail exactly how they want them made, and packaged, and labeled, so that they make sure they're safe and they're not going to do more harm than good by spreading infection. Our first batch of materials was tricky to get hold of, cause there's a national plastic shortage at the moment, but one of the volunteers who'd signed up to help works in a factory where they make food packaging, and it just so happened they had a big roll of plastic that they usually use to make transparent cake boxes, that was just the right specification that we needed for these visors. So we got a volunteer to drive over and load it into their car, all 96 kilos of it. And we've been making the plastic from that.

Katie - How many have you actually made so far?

Julia - Just yesterday we made our five thousandth visor. The first thousand masks we made, we gave to Addenbrooke's and then they realised that they actually needed many more than we could make. So they took the document that we'd written together, describing exactly what the visors needed to look like and how they needed to be made. And they've given it to a factory in Sydney who's now manufacturing 10,000 of these visors a week. So we had 4,000 visors to give away to community organisations, and have been overwhelmed with requests from all across Cambridgeshire and the Southeast of England.

Katie - It's a really stressful, anxiety-provoking time for a lot of people at the moment. What is it like to be involved in such a positive, proactive community?

Julia - It's really nice to not feel completely helpless, to feel like we can do something useful, and to feel connected to your local community and to the community of makers at a time like this. A big thank you to all of the volunteers who've been involved sourcing materials and spending their Easter weekend stapling visors in the Makespace lab and helping out in lots of big and little ways.

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