As you read this, multiple volunteers across Montreal are donating equipment, expertise, time and materials to build protective face shields and ventilators for hospitals.
Among them is Jérémie Gauthier-Caron, who has been running his 3D printer non-stop for two weeks now as part of a collective called Protection Collective.
Tomorrow or the next day, Gauthier-Caron and his mom will get into their Honda CRV to drive around the city picking up 3D printed parts for protective face shields from balconies to make sure that they don’t contaminate materials or contact anyone they don’t live with. Then they’ll drop parts off at MDA for assembly, sterilization, and packing. Sealed bags will then be delivered to another new volunteer collective, Give Protection, which will distribute them to hospitals.
“We have to be careful to make sure that we don’t accidentally spread the virus,” said Gauthier-Caron, whose prop-making jobs for theatres and circuses have dried up since Montreal imposed a health emergency shut-down on Friday, March 13. “I was kind of depressed before doing this, but since doing this, not so much. It gives you a purpose.”
There are another 11 coordinators like Gauthier-Caron and 40 or 50 additional volunteers working within Protection Collective. They began operations on Monday, March 25. Within two days, they had already already delivered 100 protective face shields to the Jewish General. Last week, they delivered another 65 to the MUHC, Charles-Le Moyne and Sacré-Coeur hospitals and 165 to Give Protection while getting organized to ramp up.
This week, with the help of new sponsors, they plan to distribute another 500 protective face shields. At this point, Gauthier-Caron says things are working well, although both collectives need more volunteers, donors and PETG plastic.
Protection Collective and Give Protection aren’t the only volunteer organizations that have sprung up to meet the needs of hospitals since early March. Alexandre Ferreira Benevides, Manager of LESIAQ at Polytechnique Montréal, started a third initiative, called Santé Libre, to create artificial respirators.
Volunteers with Santé Libre have special permission to print parts using seven 3D printers in the mechanical engineering department at Polytechnique this week.
“Some hospitals are investigating the option of converting scuba-diving equipment into respirators,” said Daniel Therriault, one of three professors who head up the LM2 Multiscale Mechanics Laboratory where the printers reside. “They need about 50 specially-designed valves to serve as prototypes for the project.”
Therriault’s lab has been closed since the shutdown, but he and others arranged access for three to five volunteer masters and PhD students to fight COVID-19 this week.
“Polytechnique had to design a safety protocol to respect the two metres between students and staff, and to carefully disinfect the equipment, including the mouse and keyboards, they’ll be using,” said Therriault. “There’s going to be a technician of the department to assist the students with the sanitary tasks.”
The research is important due to an imminent need for multiple respirators in hospitals now.
Like Protection Collective and Give Protection, Santé Libre needs volunteers and donors. The three websites are: https://santelibre.ca/en_CA/, https://en.donnezlaprotection.com/ and https://www.protectioncollective.ca/.