Supporting healthcare workers from home


8 minute read
Alumni: Mary McCarron

Alumni: Mary McCarron

Sales & Marketing Assistant


Image shows healthcare workers walking down a corridor in PPEscrubs

At the time of writing, the UK has extended its lockdown for another three weeks and people are still adapting to a life with social distancing measures. 

Despite the drastic change to our daily lives, people have united in response to the pandemic. We read about fantastic efforts from communities and organisations worldwide. Initiatives that have sprung up range from large-scale networks of volunteer and mutual-aid groups, to smaller neighbourly gestures, all keeping communities running and trying to aid morale, whilst staying within social distancing guidelines. 

In the UK, an ongoing call for community initiatives has come from NHS Trusts across the country, asking for people to create and donate much needed PPE and scrubs to hospitals and support healthcare workers. 

This article highlights two brilliant projects that members of the Calvium team are working on – in their own time – to support the Bristol community. I spoke to Sarah and Jules (virtually, of course!) about the much needed scrubs and PPE they have been making.

Stitching Scrub Caps 

Those who are handy with a needle & thread have been called upon to use their skills to make much needed kit to support frontline key workers, from scrubs (the sanitary clothing healthcare workers wear underneath PPE), to gowns,  to face masks and even headbands to help ease the discomfort of wearing these masks for long hours.

Calvium’s Office Manager, Sarah, has been utilising her sewing skills to create wonderfully colourful scrub caps. I spoke to her about how the idea came about: 

What motivated you to create the scrub caps?

There’s been a lot in the news about the lack of PPE in hospitals and for health care workers, but research has shown that face masks made only from fabric don’t protect wearers so they aren’t really suitable for staff  in a frontline environment. So, making items such as scrubs, scrub caps or scrub bags means that people like me can contribute – these items can be washed at a high temperature to kill any virus particles and then worn again.

Where did you get the patterns from?

The pattern was provided by the lovely lady coordinating local efforts – there are a number of local initiatives to provide sewn items. 

I think the lady who I contacted has been quite overwhelmed with people offering to help and she’s done it all by email. But on Facebook there are lots of groups that people can join – ScrubHub is one that has groups all over the country.

Image shows the colourfully patterned scrub caps folded together
The colourful scrub caps together

Who will be using your PPE and how are you distributing it?

Initially, they were being sent to the Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI), but have also been given to other hospitals and local health centres.

In line with the current guidelines, contact with other people is minimal – makers email a local drop-off point and arrange to leave the scrubs outside the house.

Are you going to make more? 

Certainly, if I have time and / or the fabric!

How has making PPE made you feel?

It feels good to be doing something positive to help the situation, apart from staying at home, but I find sewing a relaxing hobby anyway, so that’s a bonus!

Individual scrub cap that has been made to support healthcare workers
One of Sarah’s finished scrub caps

3D Printed Face Shields

The lack of PPE for key workers is well documented. One vital item in huge demand is the protective face shield. Organisations from a range of sectors have joined the national effort to make and supply these face shields, such as Airbus. In addition, a “citizen supply chain” has established itself, where people who have access to personal 3D printers are producing face shields at home. 

During his free time – at the weekends and evenings – one of Calvium’s technical developers, Jules, has been involved in designing and making face shields using his own 3D printer. I caught up with him to learn more about the challenges he faced when adapting existing face shield designs to fit his small bed printer: 

Can you tell me what motivated you to make 3D printed PPE?

I was excited by the amazing efforts in the 3D printing community – making PPE for the health care workers on the front line – and wanted to get involved.

Protective face shields seemed to be something that’s in high demand because of shortages and perfect for 3D printing so I looked at that as a starting point.

Image shows the desk set up with a Mac computer and 3D printer, printing face shields to protect and support healthcare workers
Jules’ set up for 3D printing

What challenges have you faced when making 3D printed face shields?

The issue I ran into straight away was that most of the work done for this in the open source community was for larger 3D printers, so I saw this as a challenge to re-work some of the excellent designs out there for the smaller printers.

I figured that there are potentially a lot of maker spaces and schools with these small 3D printers, like mine, that could be utilized for PPE production if the designs were modified accordingly. So I set about creating a modified design for smaller printers.

Fundamentally, my approach was to divide the existing 3D model into several smaller sections that could be independently printed. Once printed the sections can snap together to create the full size face mask.

Where did you get your inspiration for the design?

I decided to use the simple but very effective design by 3dverkstan in Sweden as my starting point.

The reason they have not gone down the route of these split face shield designs is due to them being harder to sterilize, but they also state that it’s entirely down to the end users, and with demand being so high anything is helpful.

Up-close of a 3D printed design for a face shield to support healthcare workers

Who will be using your adapted designs?

My focus is on making the design work for small print-volume 3D printers to open up the possibilities for people with small 3D printers across the world to produce much needed PPE.

How will you distribute it?

I’ll post the models on

Are you going to make more?

I hope to refine and iterate the designs and publish updates as I go. I also plan to start printing more of the face shields myself.

Talking about your 3D printer, what do you usually use it for?

I have a Monoprice Mini Delta and a Malyan M200. Both are small, cheap but reliable printers. I’m very much just a hobbyist with this but enjoy being able to make physical things come out of the digital space.

Some of Jules’ 3D printed components for face shields


Sarah and Jules are doing tremendous work and it’s been lovely to find out about their activities. They have demonstrated two ways in which individuals can and are able to support their communities, locally and globally. 

If you are interested in finding out more about participating in making PPE or scrubs, or want to know more information about initiatives, here are a few links that I hope might help:

  • This free webinar is for organisations wishing to support efforts to place more PPE on the market. 
  • Ventilator Challenge UK has seen a consortium of UK businesses from the aerospace, automotive & medical sectors come together to produce medical ventilators for the UK. 
  • An urgent appeal from Med Supply Drive UK is asking for donations to secure more PPE for the NHS. 
  • National 3D Printing Society is working with Med Supply Drive to deliver vital PPE to frontline workers. If you want to contribute you can either sign up to be added to the database to contribute to 3D prints, or you can donate via the ‘Just Giving page.’ 
  • Donations need to reach not only those in the NHS, but also other key health workers, such as carers. 
  • The AMRC donated thousands of protective face visors to keep NHS healthcare workers safe during Covid-19. 
  • Charity Shield NHS has formed a network across the UK to make 3D printed visors and are on a mission to donate hundreds of thousands of protective face shields to NHS workers. 
  • Social media is a great place to find opportunities to volunteer or donate, such as this Facebook page, ‘For the Love of Scrubs.’

  • Support those who are raising money for this vital cause,  such as this Go Fund Me page, which is raising money for PPE equipment in Glasgow.
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