Council venue becomes pop-up PPE factory during pandemic
  • Thursday 14 May 2020

The Sunshine Coast’s renowned sense of community spirit has flourished during the COVID-19 pandemic and we have seen that in abundance through initiatives like volunteers producing more than 1000 medical-grade face shields for use across the region.

The 3D-printed personal protective equipment (PPE) has been helping keep the region’s health workers safe during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

During the CV19 Sunshine Coast Hackathon, more than 50 volunteers, worked at venues across the Sunshine Coast - including Kawana Community Hall.

Dozens of face shields were made each week to support Sunshine Coast University Hospital (SCUH), Buderim Hospital and other healthcare providers in the region.

The project started when five Sunshine Coast Maker Space and Peregian Digital Hub members, heard that global supplies for PPE were quickly diminishing.

They decided then and there they wanted to help their community.

Dominic Vrolijks runs the Sunshine Coast Maker Space, joined forces with Peregian Digital Hub’s Chris Boden and their teams tested and experimented with various facemask designs.

“Since March we’ve been liaising with the team at SCUH, offering to make 3D-print face shields for use in the ICU ward,” Mr Vrolijks said. 

“The SCUH team was very supportive so I rallied a team and setup a Facebook group to invite people to help. 

“The group grew very quickly, and within two days, we were able to present two advanced prototypes for evaluation.

“Over the next few days we modified the design and delivered our first batch of 60 face shields the same week.”

Dr Owain Evans, Clinical Director Surgical Services, Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service said the health service had been humbled by the support of the Sunshine Coast business community during these challenging times.

“We’re very fortunate to be living in a community that has really rallied together to support one another. Equally we’re proud to be able to support our local entrepreneurs,” Dr Evans said.

The volunteers, including Sunshine Coast high school students and University of the Sunshine Coast professionals, helped to adapt an existing open-source design to meet the intensive care unit needs at Sunshine Coast University Hospital.

Mr Vrolijks said the volunteers were instrumental in the project’s outcomes, which had helped save lives.

“Not only have we managed to supply more than 1000 face shields to hospitals and independent practices, we have also passed on our design to other makers around Australia to help other frontline workers,” he said.

USC Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Roland De Marco said he and his team were glad they could provide support to help ensure the health and safety of our community.

“With limited supply of PPE posing a serious threat, USC was committed to assisting the local effort to create a pop-up PPE factory on the Sunshine Coast,” he said.

“USC loaned 3D printers, provided access to autoclaves for disinfection of PPE, and provided advice from our microbiology experts on disinfection regimes. USC wanted to do everything it could to assist this important work in a time of need.”

Sunshine Coast Council Mayor and Local Disaster Management Group Chair Mark Jamieson said council was pleased to offer council-run community facilities to provide the space and venue for the PPE production and applauded the community spirit demonstrated throughout the project.

“The work of these entrepreneurs shows the innovative and wonderfully supportive community that we have here on the Sunshine Coast,” Mayor Jamieson said.

“What they have achieved has been the right help, for the right people at the right time.”

“Council has been working with local start-ups and innovators as part of the Regional Economic Development Strategy for many years to support our local entrepreneurs ecosystem, so repurposing the council-run community facility to produce such vital equipment was a great opportunity to provide practical assistance.”


FAST FACTS - CV19 Sunshine Coast Hackathon supporters:

Sponsors - TechnologyOne and Chibetau donations used to purchase materials.

Partners - Sunshine Coast Maker Space and Chris Boden at Peregian Digital Hub.

Supporters - Sunshine Coast Council, University of Sunshine Coast, Innovation Centre at USC, Noosa Council.

Community Groups - Silicon Coast and Coding from Beach digital communities.