Wednesday June 07, 2023

Volunteers come together to develop affordable solutions for pandemic

By Our Correspondent
March 23, 2020

LAHORE: A group of volunteers from across Pakistan has come together to develop affordable solutions to combat COVID19 and manufacturing medical equipment using 3D printing technology.

The volunteers are doctors, biomedical professionals, engineers, academics, diaspora, resource mobilisers and other smaller groups, who aim at 3D printing and manufacturing ventilators, valves and required equipment for frontline response to cornonavirus.

The group has announced that the first 3D ventilator prototype will be ready for test in 10 days. The 3D printing process builds a three-dimensional object from a computer-aided design model (CAF) usually by successively adding material layer by layer, which is why it is also called additive manufacturing.

The group is getting and seeking support from the nation to scale up the initiative for larger impact that requires resources and facilitation at different levels. Dr Bilal Siddiqui, a PhD, is leading the volunteers in this initiative, and volunteers are concerned about the emerging challenge of the COVID19 pandemic and its unprecedented stress on the healthcare system of Pakistan. Lack of medical equipment to cater to the needs of the patients is a major bottleneck. Medical equipment which is affordable and optimised for conditions in

Pakistan is totally missing. High costs, logistical issues, manufacturing countries' inability to fulfil export demands due to their own local demands, etc, have made import of the equipment even more difficult.

Bilal led this startup and put things into motion by starting with his students, and reaching out to academia and industry. The aim was to develop affordable and replicable solutions for combating COVID19 challenges.

The group is growing daily and has over 100 engineers, medical professionals, professors, entrepreneurs and resource mobilisers working tirelessly in various teams to produce various solutions rapidly. The group's active collaboration is currently focused on developing local design and engineering solutions to make available the equipment such as low-cost and massively available respiratory ventilators, portable oxygen supplies, face masks and protection screens, respiratory valves, viral media tubes, non-contact thermometers, retrofitting existing vents to serve multiple patients, and arranging 3D printing farms, manufacturing and funding support across the nation to deal with the COVID19 crisis.

Once the solutions are developed, tested and approved for medical use, they will be deployed across the nation. Arrangements are underway for making available the funds for mass manufacturing by connecting the idle 3D printer capacity and coordinating a manufacturing grid across the nation.

The nation has joined in contributing to prototyping, and a number of the above mentioned items are already moving into testing, including field validations. The group members are in touch with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), hospitals, provincial governments and a large number of contributing organisations across the country.