MARI PAZ DÍAZ
Huelva, April 1, 2020
The Control and Robotics Research Group (TEP 192) of the University of Huelva (UHU), led by the Professor of Systems Engineering and Automation, José Manuel Andújar, is altruistically building protective screens against the coronavirus (COVID-19), which they are donating to Huelva’s health centres.
For the moment, more than 300 complete kits have been delivered to the groups that had requested them, such as the ICUs at Juan Ramón Jiménez and Infanta Elena Hospitals and the Pediatric Emergency, Pediatrics and Cleaning Services at Juan Ramón, not to mention 061 and the Family Doctor’s Unit at Isla Cristina, among others. However, the idea of these researchers from Huelva is to continue working to provide protection to all social groups that demand it.
These protection devices are made with 3D printers and consist of screens that cover the entire face, fitted with head supports, which allows for covering a large portion of the face of healthcare professionals, preventing fogging of glasses, as may happen with masks, thus avoiding discomfort when performing their work.
In any case, José Manuel Andújar clarifies that, in general, “3D printers are not yet conceived or designed for mass production, but to generate prototypes that may later be industrialized. In fact, it takes about two hours to assemble each operation, so an average of 12 computers are made for each printer and day. Of course, the printers are running 24 hours a day. We understand that if, as it seems, companies in Huelva that work with plastic injection have set to work to manufacture protective equipment, this is the best solution to quickly have a large amount of equipment available to professionals who need it. Plastic injection machines can make an enormous amount of daily equipment with as much or more quality than 3D printers”.
As this UHU professor explains, this solidarity initiative arose spontaneously a month ago, when, following the worsening of the coronavirus crisis, “we began to have express requests for help from different groups that needed individual protection equipment (IPEs). It was not a coordinated request for help, but individual demands through the members of the Research group (TEP192 Control and Robotics) and the social networks themselves”.
As a result of these requests, “we set up a working operation in the research group so that each member could work from home with their own 3D printer to avoid possible contagion and thus comply with the rules of confinement decreed by the government,” Andújar specifies.
The work has been designed considering issues such as the optimization and commissioning of the printers, from the nozzles and the most suitable plastic, to the appropriate files to obtain the best results, which has allowed the researchers to have the printers operational in a short period of time, working with the same elements and parameters, that is, with similar technical conditions.
Then, each member of the research group has been provided with the necessary material for the manufacture of the screens from their home. Finally, the management of the deliveries has been coordinated from the research group, doing it in a dynamic and quick way, so much so that the equipment has been able to reach its destination in a short period of time, that is to say, not exceeding more than one day, and delivering the screens directly to the applicants.
A proposal that has been very well received by the beneficiary health professionals who even received the delivery of the screens with applause. Furthermore, by way of an anecdote, José Manuel Andújar recalls how, “given the quality of the equipment being made, certain private companies in the health sector have already contacted us so that we could sell them the equipment we manufacture. However, our work is totally altruistic, never a business, so we supply them to whoever needs them without asking questions”.
In conclusion, for José Manuel Andújar, initiatives like these show that, “in the world we live in, a well-organized civil society can greatly contribute to mitigating disasters. I think that when all this happens – which it will, because however much it rains, it always stops – our leaders should draw at least a couple of lessons: the first is that we must be prepared for enemies like this one, who will not be the first or the last; and, the second, that civil society, which is well organised, can be the perfect complement, as an auxiliary unit, but absolutely necessary, for the emergency and shock teams that are on the front line, and the assistance teams, which are on the back line. It is absolutely impossible for any government to be 100% prepared for a crisis of these dimensions, just as it would not be for a major earthquake or other catastrophe, but the government can have its society perfectly organized to mitigate both the risks and the consequences.