May 16, 2020 - What began with one 3D printer nicknamed Mendelmax 3 turned into helping thousands of front-line health workers. 

British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) alumni Jamie Haakons, a mechanical engineer and Keisha Go, an interior designer, were married in late 2019. “We recently came back from a trip to the Philippines for our wedding and we left right as the city of Manila went into lockdown,” the couple shared with Canadian Filipino Net (CFNet). Go’s parents and brother and most of her family reside in Manila.

They knew how dire the need was in the Philippines for personal protective equipment (PPE) and thought of ways to help. Go reached out to a friend in Manila who was organizing a group to use 3D printing technology to produce PPEs. She asked how they can help using their lone 3D printer at home. 

With Haakons’ background in mechanical engineering coupled with Go’s design background, a prototype was quickly created based on online open source designs. “Our initial plan was to ship a package of 100 shields, but by the time we finished putting everything together, international shipment was coming to a halt,” recalled Haakons. The couple had already produced face shields and ear savers ready for shipping when they learned that courier services to the Philippines were either closed or suspended. 

So, the couple turned their sights closer to home and the response was immediate. To date, Haakons and Go received seven more 3D printers as donations. 

The couple have handed over 10,000 items (projected to reach 15,000 items by end of May) to various Lower Mainland hospitals, care homes, clinics and health facilities in under two months. Some of these include Royal Columbian Hospital, Vancouver General Hospital, Surrey Memorial Hospital and the BC Cancer Agency.

VGH ICU Nurses Nurses at the Vancouver General Hospital's Intensive Care Unit try out face shields donated by Jamie Haakons and Keisha Go.

Of the face shields, Go notes that they are currently printing a standard North American design “to create a sense of uniformity that front liners everywhere receive.” She adds, “It also makes it easier for other fellow 3D printers to ensure that when other people reach out to them as well, they are getting the same style of face shields.” 

Because production has ramped up, several factors had to be adjusted. Their Coquitlam home has turned into a major production hub with their beer and winemaking room now temporarily transformed into a production space. They must maintain an optimal room temperature as running eight 3D printers simultaneously increased room temperature. Because of physical distancing, the production team could not include other volunteers. “It’s only Jamie and I who run all printers 24/7!” Go tells CFNet, “It’s definitely had its challenges, but our local community has been fantastic in helping us getting packing supplies, deliveries and donations of filament and acetate sheets.”

The original printer, Mendelmax 3, recently packed it in. On his Facebook post, Haakons explains, “It's important to remember that these are hobbyist machines that weren't designed for what Keisha and I have put them through for the last 6 weeks. It printed over 2000 items in a span of 45 days, which is more than the average 3D printer will ever produce in its lifetime.”

Born and raised in the Philippines, Go moved with family to Vancouver in 2010. She and her sisters live there permanently. Go shares with CFNet, “My parents and my brother are doing well. They are safe and healthy at home in Manila where their community has been placed in extended quarantine.” The Go family members stay connected through video chats and maintaining a message group on social media.

Though their days start very early in the morning and ends very late at night, the couple is enjoying the outpouring of support from community. Their fundraising efforts have so far collected over $6,000 to cover the cost of materials. To donate to the cause and view a list of recipients, go to their Face Shields for Front-Liners (BC) Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/donate/3009564649107854/.


About the Author
Rachel Ramos-Reid started writing for magazines and newspapers when she was still a junior at the University of the Philippines’ Communication degree program majoring in Journalism. She continued to write in a public relations/corporate communications capacity in various private and government offices until moving out of the country in 1997 to work as Programme Officer for the arts and culture branch of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO-SPAFA) in Bangkok, Thailand. At the end of her term, Rachel found herself immigrating to Canada in the year 2000 and again searching for new beginnings. Currently she is the Executive Assistant to the North Island College’s Board of Governors in a part-time capacity.


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