Interview

“3D Support” against Coronavirus: The Entire Turkey is Ready to Support Healthcare Professionals

Deniz Renkveren, the Magazine .tr

Engineers, designers, software developers, and volunteers of all ages engaged in production with their three-dimensional printers have joined forces on social media for healthcare professionals in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Volunteers participating in the “3D Support” movement produce free face visors for healthcare professionals with the financial support of individuals, companies, and organizations. The collective production movement sets an example to the entire world with its network structure, mode of production, and spiritual motivation.

Even the most powerful countries have been desperate against the coronavirus pandemic which has influenced the whole world. The term power, which was previously described by economic, technological, and military capacities, has succumbed to COVID-19 which does not have a known cure yet. While Western countries failed to set an example of solidarity in a circumstance where health infrastructure and medical supplies have fallen short, success stories emerged from Turkey one after the other in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. And “3D Support Campaign” is only one of these success stories. The 3D Support Campaign started with a message shared by 3 engineers on social media and was supported by thousands of people in a very short time. The number of individuals and institutions supporting the campaign for which 81 provinces of Turkey have joined forces has exceeded 3 thousand in only one month whereas the number of three-dimensional printers operating for this network has exceeded 4 thousand.

With the campaign that they have started, mechatronic engineer İlker Vardarlı, electronics engineer Ramazan Subaşı, and industrial engineer Doğukan Güngör have not only supported the Ministry of Health in its fight but also combined the power of productive people within the scope of a movement established for the benefit of humanity. Being the product of the love and spirit of solidarity of the Anatolian culture, the movement does not leave the health workers alone in their fight and supports them also spiritually in such a difficult time.

Our pleasant conversation with the mechatronics engineer İlker Vardarlı, one of the founders of the 3D Support network, revealed that this life-saving movement is an important step in the transition from a consuming society to a producing society.

How did the 3D Support campaign start? How many people support this network and what are their profiles?

I have known my friend Ramazan Subaşı for 5 years. We were actually dreaming with him of a community that shares what it produces and produces what is shared. We call this “maker culture ”. We carried out a lot of works in relation to this culture. Fairs have been organized throughout Turkey. We also paid attention to informing people and performing open-source works. These works have been an inducement for the movement you witness today.

Well, how did this process begin? When we started working from home, we were having a conversation with Ramazan. Ramazan came up with the idea of gathering three-dimensional printers in a network. “Just to be on the safe side, we should have such a network.” he said. Then I thought that I cannot meet any need of a single hospital with 10 pcs of three-dimensional printers. Thus, we started the 3D Support movement. So let’s create a forum for it, we said. We created that forum and started with a social media message saying; “I hope there will be no need for them, but we have created an open forum in case of need for three-dimensional (3D) printer technologies in an emergency. Can you spare 1 minute to add information on the three-dimensional printers you have to the forum?” We received more demand than we expected. We sent the message on March 19, and there were 30 to 40 people when we got up the next morning; it was hundreds of people on the second day and thousands of people on the third day. Then we thought, “How should we organize this?” We did not expect such a big demand. Thereafter, we immediately got organized in provinces. We separated the process into 81 provinces and assigned a volunteer producer in each province. And how did we assign them? People who signed up to the forum also joined our messaging group. We started to hold meetings in this group. In consequence of the meetings, representatives of each province were elected. We started to get organized in this way and each representative started organizing his/her own group.

DOCTORS DEMANDED FACE VISORS AND WE PRODUCED THEM

How did you decide to produce face visors?

We had not known what to produce until the first business day we started our work. A lot of ideas emerged in the meetings of the messaging group. In the meantime, we started to collect demands from healthcare professionals. We asked our doctors one by one, “Sir/Madam, what do you need?”. And they mentioned these face visors because face visor is a generic name for the equipment used by the doctors in performing surgeries. But at the moment, both the healthcare professionals who come into face-to-face contact with patients and the regular ordinary staff should wear these face visors for their health.

81 PROVINCES BECAME ORGANIZED IN LESS THAN NO TIME

How did you get organized in 81 provinces prior to face visor production?

We had already prepared many plans before starting this process. We also prepared a list of what can be done. We were going through this list while talking to doctors, and three-dimensional support received the most demand. Then we decided to focus on face visors. There is a community sharing open source code for 3D printers. The open source design of the face visor was shared through this community. It was taking three hours for this design to be produced by a three-dimensional printer. This was a long time.

Later on, we announced this circumstance to our community. Our friends in Adana made some revisions to this design and our friends in Isparta worked on the production phase. We finally put everything together and reduced the time to one and a half hour. In other words, we started producing twice as much in the same period. Then we quickly started spreading the renewed design to 81 provinces. Volunteers started to make production with the three-dimensional printers and raw materials available in their hand. We have seen that this movement was growing and the need for a website has emerged. Our website was created by our volunteering friends, the identities of whom were not even known to me. On this website, we both started to collect demands from healthcare professionals and to add manufacturers to our network more easily. For this reason, our production network started to grow. We sent demands from 81 provinces to the representatives of 81 provinces. By contacting the hospitals and doctors in those cities, we made sure that the products were directed to those cities. Since we are in Istanbul, we quickly organized the processes in Istanbul. Nef Foundation which supported this process provided us with a place in Istanbul. There we continued our productions. Thousands of people making production at home sent their products to this center. Turkey Motorcycle Platform gave support in terms of logistics. They received these face visors from the producers and brought them to our center. We packaged the headband and the transparent front face part necessary for these products and started to send them from there to the hospitals again with the help of our said motorbiker friends. We set up a cycle in this way, and this fully voluntary process was formed.

Turkey Motorcycle Federation is volunteering for the distribution of the face visors produced within the scope of 3D Support Campaign, to healthcare professionals.
IT PROTECTS HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS AGAINST CONTACT THROUGH BREATHING

Finding N95, FFP2 and FFP3 type masks with higher protection, used by healthcare professionals, has become difficult after the coronavirus pandemic. What are the functions of the face visor you produce?

The face visor we produce does not provide protection on its own. The benefits of this product differ depending upon where it is used: It can be used as a protective mask when used outdoors.  It is appropriate to use it with a protective mask such as N95 during an encounter with a case at the hospital. We often touch our face with our hands out of habit without noticing it. The face visor prevents us from touching our face. Another important point of it is that: Patients are constantly coughing, and assuming that they don’t wear a mask -which most unfortunately don’t- this is a product that healthcare professionals who are the first points of contact with patients should wear. The regular masks can be inadequate. Because, since the individual coughs, droplets can also attach to the forehead or hair of the healthcare professional. Moreover, these droplets can stick to many spots around his/her entire face. It may not be sufficient for the healthcare professional to cover his/her mouth with a mask. The mask provides a transparent protection. Like I said, it does not provide hundred percent protection, but it is a mask that supports the regular mask, and especially prevents droplet contact, and regulates hand-arm coordination.

SPECIAL PERMIT FROM GOVERNORSHIPS

There is a “stay at home” campaign process and a curfew process. How are the face visors being distributed during the stay at home campaign? How and from which officials are you getting permission during the curfew?

In this respect, the provinces solve the issue among themselves. We wrote to the Governorship of Istanbul on social media. Police Department called us. Police officials asked “What kind of a permit do you want, and who are volunteering in this matter?”. We submitted a list of them. And we have been given a permit by the Governorship. Representatives in other provinces are also making their request to their own governorship. Currently, there are provinces that have permission and also provinces waiting for permission in this respect.

The movement you started grew in a short time.  How many persons and institutions are cooperating in this network at the moment throughout Turkey and how many three-dimensional printers are there?

When I look at the current figures, number of persons and institutions has exceeded 3 thousand. And number of three-dimensional printers has exceeded 4 thousand. So far, we have produced more than 100 thousand face visors. We have been in production process for more than a month. Moreover, we started to consider other models with our affiliates. For example, we started to think about designs produced in a printing house instead of with a three dimensional printer. Nef Foundation supports the process of production in a printing house. Because, tons of materials are needed and a printing house should dedicate its entire capacity to this. We are continuing production with three-dimensional printer. But the demand is very high and we have reached a point where three-dimensional printer is inadequate.

AFTER DOCTORS, NOW IT IS POLICE OFFICERS’ AND PHARMACISTS’ TURN

The masks produced are being delivered to healthcare organizations, hospitals and doctors in each province. Are there other organizations to which you deliver your masks?

We deliver the products primarily to hospitals dealing with the pandemic. We identified other hospitals, family health centers, followed by police stations and pharmacies, respectively, as secondary locations of delivery. We cannot distribute too many products to police stations and pharmacies, but we did provide them with a certain volume of face visors even though it wasn’t too much. After forming the printing house model, we will be able to produce hundreds of thousands of products.

How many face visors are you producing in a day?

Our deliveries in Istanbul are ranging from one thousand to one thousand five hundred a day. I cannot give a regular figure for throughout Turkey, because we receive weekly reports from the manufacturers from around Turkey. But we make an average of 20 to 25 thousand deliveries per week.

Can you give more detailed information about the production process?

Volunteers in our network produce the plastic parts of the three-dimensional support with three-dimensional printers. It has 4 parts in total. 2 parts come out of the three-dimensional printer. The other is a headband made of rubber and the fourth is a transparent part that covers the face. After a certain volume is produced, volunteers from Turkey Motorcycle Platform pick up the parts from our homes and take them to the center. Missing pieces are mounted there and they are packaged and sent again from there. Assembly video and assembly images are also included in the package for healthcare professionals. We send the products out without assembling them because it becomes a very puffy looking package when 20 products are assembled and packaged together. It is much more convenient to send them without assembling. When healthcare professionals receive their packages, they place the sterilizable transparent part over the plastic part. The second part is attached to the lower part of the protective visor, allowing it to take the shape of the face. The plastic part on the upper part of the visor is fitted with a rubber and the three-dimensional support is held in place on the head. Thus, the face of the healthcare professional is protected against effects from the front while serving patients. The three-dimensional support prevents contact through breathing between healthcare professionals and patients.

SPONSORS ARE NEEDED

From which materials do you produce the face visor? Are there any sponsors that provide materials support?

We use three basic products in this regard. One is the 3D printer’s raw material, a substance we call PLA. This is an organic material made of corn starch. Apart from that, there is a material called PET-G.  It should be in the form of a 0.5 mm plate. Our third cost item is the headband made of perforated rubber. Our volunteering friends initially covered these costs out of their own pockets. Then there had been those who wanted to support this process. We never demanded money. We said: “We need these products; which one would you like to support? Or you can also give support with three-dimensional printer and contribute to production. ” And somehow we started to receive supports. For example, here, Turk Telekom and Rumelia Turks Culture and Solidarity Association are among the organizations that have supported us. Many companies have supported us with both the products and the materials available in their hand. And, what are we doing with these supports? We send these materials both to manufacturers in Istanbul and volunteer manufacturers and endeavor to ensure the continuation of this system. I should also add that there are around 4,500 three-dimensional printers and they are constantly operating.

However, we cannot send materials to all of the volunteer manufacturers. Therefore, we need more support so that we can manage this process very well in this circumstance and similar situations. There will be similar situations also in the future. It is certain that we will realize a joint production on another subject, even if it is not COVID-19. I would also like to clarify this support aspect: Major supporters are interested in supporting us. But we emphasized the following message to every province: “Friends; what we do is very transparent and everything we do is clear; there are no hidden agendas and no political formation is involved in this process. Therefore, please apply to the municipality, governorship, provincial national education and provincial health directorate of the province where you are at. Apply to the large companies, organizations and rich people in that province. We are sure that they will support you.” And this is exactly what happened. There have been people who supported this process everywhere from Urfa to Van and Muş and from Adana to Çanakkale. In fact, people engaged in production at their home as a hobby have thus shown their support by this means. An opportunity was also created for them for the future. These volunteers became a community. Because, they also got acquainted with other people engaged in production and the communities that could support them. We are thinking about new ideas for this community for the future.

WE WILL PRODUCE SOLUTIONS FOR FUTURE NEEDS AS WELL

We have determined our mission as follows: As 3D Support, we should determine the need, develop solutions to that need in the shortest time possible, produce the three-dimensional designs, and deliver them to the places in need. This may also be applicable on another matter in the future after the COVID-19 process ends.

But we can quickly spread a design we made in Istanbul to the other 80 provinces, and we can produce this product in 80 provinces at the speed of light so to speak. We can send what we produce also to Van for instance. But if you do this work only in Istanbul, you cannot reach everywhere. Logistics is a very serious issue and cost item in this respect. And what are we actually doing here? What we actually do is stepping in during that first acute period in the crisis and supplying this product.

WE PRODUCE WITH LOVE

The movement you started put a smile on doctors’ faces. What kind of reactions do you get from them?

What they tell us mostly is as follows: “With these products, what we receive is not only a mask. We also receive hope. We feel that people are among us and they support us. ” There was a very nice image in this respect that we shared a few weeks ago on social media. A family from Izmir, together with their children, are assembling and preparing masks together with all the family members. This product we produce is actually produced with love. So, we should also point out this aspect; it is a product full of emotions. Since we make them feel these emotions, it is different from other products. While providing these products, we inscribe a phrase onto a corner of the mask saying “not sold for money”. On another spot, we add the messages “We love you” and “We are grateful to you” in order to express our gratitude to healthcare professionals. In a production series, we wrote the names of our doctors that we have lost in this process one by one. What we are actually doing is trying to speak to healthcare professionals. Since we continue this communication with them, we endeavor to address their feelings and strengthen them.

A NEW AWARENESS HAS BEEN CREATED

 How did you raise awareness about the necessity of using the face visor?

We created this awareness as follows: Nobody was talking about such a need in Turkey until 4 to 5 weeks ago. However, after we have started this movement, several mold shops have started to produce molds. People have started to develop awareness on the issue. Now they wear the face visor everywhere, whether it be grocery stores or markets. Market places also started using it, as they should be. When this product was started to be sold commercially by other people, we created awareness on the matter. Other people have also developed a lot of products related to face shield. A product surplus has quickly emerged in Turkey; we are also endeavoring to produce and provide what we have in hand, but we should perform a swift production process. We want to combine our production with the printing house model and respond to the demands quickly. There are also other products that a three-dimensional printer can produce by making a difference. We want to focus on these products with these 4,500 printers. Because, there are also other products waiting for our support.

INDIVIDUAL INITIATIVES REGULATE THE ECONOMY

It is a matter of discussion nowadays how the global systems will change after the coronavirus pandemic. At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, excessive increases were made to the prices of medical and disease-protection materials, and the prices of masks, disinfectants and face visors, in particular, have increased too much. This initiative that you have developed had a transformative effect on face visor prices. While we were talking about how the post-coronavirus economy would be and while states were trying to control the economy by keeping prices stable or preventing them from increasing, we have witnessed that individual initiatives and civil initiatives naturally had a transformative power on prices without the need for any further intervention. What would you like to say in this respect?

You actually expressed this issue very well. This was something that we were capable of doing. And what happened? With the support of people, we have addressed the needs of the supply process of a product which was sold at exorbitant prices and was not available in the market. Masks were sold at very exorbitant prices, and the same thing is also applicable to this three-dimensional support. Until a month ago, this product was not available on the market. And the existing products were being sold at very high prices. As a result of this movement that we started, awareness has been created. Many molds of the face visor were made in many mold shops. Now, it has started to be sold at very affordable prices, below 15 Turkish Lira. Moreover, we have caused the prices to drop much lower than the market prices, thereby making the product accessible not only to hospital staff, but also to general public. We produce this mask at an average cost of TL 5 and distribute it to healthcare professionals free of charge. We think that we have created a sense of awareness in this respect. This is a benefit we have added to this process. We will also endeavor to develop other products in the future. We have some R&D studies that we are carrying out about masks. There are also R&D volunteers in this process. These volunteers come up with and share new designs in this process. We both share these processes at the global level and use what we receive from the global platform in our own production. We endeavor to deal with many products.

WE WILL BUILD VILLAGE SCHOOLS WITH 3D PRINTERS

I think that we also contribute to production in this way and that we represent the productive people in this sense. Because, to date, these manufacturers had already been engaged in production with three-dimensional printers as a hobby. When we all gathered under this roof, they felt that they were not alone and that they were producing for a particular benefit. After this process is over and when we have similar targets, we can realize new productions. For example, we produce prostheses for stray animals and we will carry out a work for this purpose. We will say, for instance, “We will build a part of a village school with three-dimensional printers.” and everyone will build a part of the school. Everyone will lay a brick and together we will build a village school. This is not a dream. I am carrying out the R&D studies of this. The bricks to be used will not be like regular standard bricks. We will continue similar studies. I think we will make difference and create awareness in many areas.

Volunteers of the 3D Support campaign aim to conduct new projects in the future.

Do you have plans for other medical supplies after the pandemic?

This community can create joint projects in many areas, whether it be producing prostheses for stray animals or producing unmanned aircraft. Because, the three-dimensional printer gives freedom of production and ensures democratization of production process. In other words, we can make the entire production at the same time in Muş, Van, Istanbul and Izmir. No region is deprived of this production. External parts can be produced here alone. For example, if this is a good design, you can turn a part you have processed in the three-dimensional printer alone into a product. This can be a solution for a dog’s foot or a food bowl for a cat. On the other hand, this can be an unmanned aerial vehicle when you add some electrical parts or put an engine into it. At this point, we are very open to different projects. There is no limit; all we need to do is to focus and produce projects. For example, we can also produce a drone with which we can ensure the irrigation of fields. And what is necessary for this is to produce and to combine what we produce with other electronic parts. Think of it this way: We send an electronic kit to our friend in Şanlıurfa. We give the file. And s/he can produce this drone on his/her own according to the file. There will be other similar projects that create a difference. For example, we will be able to build a village school.

THERE ARE MANY DEMANDS FROM ABROAD; WE ARE READY TO HELP

Do you receive demands from abroad for the movement you started? Are there any questions from abroad about how you realized this model?

We received a lot of messages in this way. They reach us from abroad; for example, we received many feedbacks from Cyprus, Germany and USA. We received messages saying “we also want to contribute to this process and produce in our own region.” We answered them as follows: “We got organized here but we cannot go to USA and get organized there as well. What we can do, however, is to make our files and production method available to you for your use and benefit. And if you have any question that you want to ask, we will answer it. ” In other words, we had to say “you should do it yourself there.”.

If someone wants to reach you and get an opinion in this respect, can you help them? How should they reach you?

3Boyutludestek.orgis our general website. They send can send an e-mail to my address at iletisim@3boyutludestek.org or ilker@3boyutludestek.org. I will be glad to answer questions from abroad.

The 3D Support team voluntarily provides guidance to people who want to organize similar campaigns in abroad.
WE ARE GOING THROUGH A PERIOD SIMILAR TO THE TURKISH WAR OF INDEPENDENCE

I would like to add the following: We, as a society, have always provided support in difficult situations. This was sometimes in the form of monetary assistance and sometimes donation of goods. Sometimes we collected and sent books. We have always given something we have in hand. Nothing similar to the circumstance we are in has been experienced until recently, except for the Turkish War of Independence. At that time, too, people were making production for our soldiers in the front line. Villages were established with any and all means and support was given through production in order to meet the needs of soldiers in the front line. And the circumstance we are now in makes me think of those times. Because, people of this nation come together to produce. They started to give support by producing, instead of providing the finished products in their hand or the money in their pocket. In fact, this also reveals the added value of this process. In other words, different scenarios may emerge from these situations, but adding value by producing is much more valuable. If we look at it this way, we can demonstrate the benefit that has emerged more easily.

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