By Andreas Mortensen
COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – A group of Danish entrepreneurs have started a charity network that stands ready to make up to 20,000 protective visors a day using 3D printers, in an attempt to meet rising demand from doctors and nurses combating the coronavirus outbreak.
With hospitals in Denmark and other countries stretched as they treat a rising number of patients infected with the coronavirus, traditional supply chains have failed to meet global demand for facial masks and other protective gear.
“The global supply chains are broken, so we’re not capable of getting the material or products that we need … so we need to do something else,” said Frank Rosengren Lorenzen, chief executive of Danish AM Hub, a lobby group that started the initiative.
More than 250 printers around Denmark are currently part of the project that at full capacity can produce up to 20,000 protective visors a day, according to Lorenzen. 3D printing produces three dimensional solid objects based on digital drawings.
The initiative started after the Danish Medicines Agency urged companies to come up with ideas on how to obtain extra protective equipment such as visors, face masks and hand sanitizer.
“It’s a totally different thing to streamline your production and to think fast when you 3D print,” said Simon Bergh, an engineer at 3D Printhuset in central Copenhagen.
“Normally 3D printing is for small productions, tests or prototypes and now we have to go up in production, so it’s more about optimising the actual speed of the production,” he said.
Bergh said he produced 60 masks using six 3D printers, with each machine producing two masks per hour, during a limited trial run on Tuesday, and he was now ready to scale up production.
Denmark had registered 34 deaths as of Wednesday with 350 coronavirus patients currently hospitalized.
Earlier in March the World Health Organization said the coronavirus outbreak has caused a global shortage of protective equipment and set prices on protective gowns, masks and respirators soaring.
(The story corrects in para 8 to say each printer can make two masks per hour, not 12, and that this was a limited trial run)
(Reporting by Andreas Mortensen; editing by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen, Alexandra Hudson and Andrew Heavens)