Printing in a pandemic: the makers response to COVID

This paper, published in the Journal of European Association for Health Information and Libraries, by Mike Boyd, manager of the University’s uCreate Studio makerspace explains how the uCreate team used their skills, knowledge, network of contacts, and specialist equipment to work throughout the COVID-19 lockdown, and collaborate with other local teams to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) for local NHS staff.

Key to the success of these initiatives was the use of Creative Commons licensed models and the internationally collaborative approach they facilitated. Designs were rapidly created, shared, prototyped, and improved on as an iterative process, pulling in expertise from across the globe.

“Since 1998 Creative Commons licences have proved to be a powerful tool for collaborative, community, and common good work activities. With the development of the designs for PPE it provided a mechanism for hundreds of makers and experts from a variety of fields to work simultaneously on a problem in which time was of the essence. It ensured that the fruits of their labours were available to everyone as quickly and freely as possible. A massive, global community effort in which the mechanisms were in place to allow experts from every required field to contribute freely to the project to ensure all makers could manufacture PPE quickly, efficiently and to a shared standard.”

The paper also highlights the work of University of Edinburgh students, graduates and makers around the UK who used their skills to create and develop PPE using ethical and sustainable practices, and produce face shields for carers and charitable organisations within the UK and as far afield as Armenia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and Somaliland. 

“Seeing students and staff who had developed their maker skills in the uCreate Studio form their own bases of manufacture has been an immense source of pride for us as a service, but also provide evidence of the importance of library makerspaces and the skills they develop.”
In conclusion, Mike writes:
Makerspaces foster a range of practical, creative, and professional skills. They promote collaboration, innovation, and action. They can be used to surface new technologies quickly, to democratise access to tools and technologies with demonstrable potential to change the world for the better; and to empower people with the ability to have a direct material impact on the world around them.”

You can read the full open access paper here: Printing in a pandemic: the makers response to COVID

Creative Commons licensed PPE models created by the team at uCreate Studio, and other colleagues around the University are available here: 3DVerkstan Protective Visor Models