The spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has exposed the world to many of its deficiencies, and Africa is not left out.
The spread has also ignited a lot of creativity and ingenuity across the globe to not only find a vaccine or a perfect treatment but also provide an adequate supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and other essential goods needed to fight the virus.
Ghana has not been left out in this outburst of creativity and local production of essential goods and PPEs. In fact, many alcohol and pharmaceutical companies have ensured alcohol base hand sanitizers have not been run out.
Face masks, overalls, and scrubs used by health workers have also been heavily produced locally thanks to support from the government. Plans are far advanced for rapid test kits and ventilators produced locally to be made in large quantities to support the fight in-country.
One of such local companies that is contributing towards the COVID-19 fight is 3Dinkra Company limited. The company which is based in Tema, the port city of Accra, Ghana’s capital is using its expertise in 3D printing to produce ventilator parts and face shields for frontline health workers and hospitals in the country.
Face Shield Production
The company led by Benjamin Obeng, 23, together with Theophilus Nutsuglo, Benjamin Asare, and Stephen Kabore are currently producing a minimum of 80 face shields a day with the target of producing a minimum of 10,000 in five months.
In an interview with Benjamin Obeng, he noted that although he was based in New York, USA, he recognized ahead of time that should the pandemic reach Ghana, his home country, it will be difficult to get adequate PPEs considering that even America and the entire world was experiencing shortages of essentials for fighting COVID-19.
To this end, he mobilized to ramp-up his 3D printing lab in Tema with additional 3D printing machines. “As I anticipated, at the time Ghana recorded its case in March, the WHO alerted that PPE was in short supply, hence country’s should consider local production and judicious use to ensure frontline workers have enough to deal with the virus during treatment.”
Due to cost of getting a bigger space, Mr. Obeng assembled the equipment in his house to ensure he cuts costs and is able to provide services to other small to medium enterprises to shorten the supply chain process in the production of specific items and equipment, including PPEs like the face shields.
With a team of five (All below 25 years old) all of whom are engineers, they developed prototypes and perfected them to meet the requirements as directed by doctors and nurses at Ghana’s biggest hospital, Korle-Bu Teaching hospital and other private hospitals in the country.
Supply to Hospitals
Four weeks after arriving at a perfect design, about “80 face shields have been produced daily for both public and private hospitals who only pay for the cost of the material product if they can,” Mr. Obeng noted.
He stressed that “the decision to only take the material cost from the hospitals is our way of ensuring our health workers are safe to keep us all safe.”
He said although the team hopes to keep doing this till COVID-19 is totally defeated in the country, “
our supplies can only last us six months.” To this end, 3Dinkra Limited welcomes support from the government, donors, and other partners to increase daily production and sustain production until COVID-19 is defeated.
The team has also developed a prototype ventilator connector meant to split both the inflow and outflow air into four separate parts. “This simple but essential device will allow one ventilator to serve four patients at a time, thereby cutting cost and maximizing the use of ventilators,” he explained.
The team is welcoming any support for clinical testing of the ventilator connector for mass production to give COVID-19 patients in critical conditions access to the very limited ventilators the country has.
The quality and efficiency of the 3Dinkra face shields have increased considerably as six major hospitals have put in requests. This surge in demand is draining the materials used in production. To this end, “we are appealing to government, donors and investors to come on board so together we can meet the demand and also export to other African countries in need.
3Dinkra is looking to break barriers in the automative and jewelry industry. “We hope to add value to the gold industry for example by allowing world-class moulds to be created here using the 3D printing technology,” Mr. Obeng envisaged.
They are currently fundraising to produce more for those hospitals who struggle to pay for ventilators and PPE: