I guess it must have been a few weeks ago that I saw a story about a couple of Italian kids who had immediately saved many lives in their local hospital by 3D printing ventilator valves. These parts cost 10 grand each, but even at that price there were none available, so the kids got one of the used valves, measured it, mapped it, and started printing them out for one euro each. The reason it popped up in my Twitter was they were being sued for millions by the copyright holder, as hospitals worldwide were using their template to save lives everywhere. Late capitalism and all that. Italians know all about executing fascists so we can forget about those scumbags for now. Moving on, I thought that if the Italians need home-made bits right now, we’re going to need them next week, so I ordered a 3D printer.

By the time it arrived a few days later there was a bubbling PPE crisis here already. The things we could print that everyone was short of were face shields. A template had been created over a few days by someone at the Czech health ministry, and they’d put it online for anyone to use. Getting going was surprisingly easy… The machine itself looked like a Meccano set when it arrived, but there are YouTubes for everything now and before long it was up, going and printing PPE. By that evening we had a few shields made up using the frames the machine made from the template, laminated A3 sheets, and some elastic and foam. Our local pub, The Volly, has got a WhatsApp group going, so that everyone can stay in touch and pick bits and bobs up for each other, look out for people on their own who are under the 12-week isolation orders, and try to keep each other half sane. 

As soon as I put some pics of what we’d made in the group everyone was throwing money at me, so I bought four more machines and they’ve been running 24/7 since. The family has taken to it without much discussion, whoever is up and about pays attention to the machines and they run through the night because there are grown-up kids here who watch them while we’re asleep, and assemble the bits in the kitchen as they print out. It’s only been a week since we had them up and running, but we’ve been able to fully sort out four care homes that had outbreaks, wards at both big Liverpool hospitals, and some for the ambulance service. The thanks we get from the people we give them to is so difficult to accept. How to take it? We’re just messing about with gadgets. They’re risking their lives for people, some of whom voted for arseholes who promised them nothing, who left them without their most basic requirements. How do NHS workers even bother under these circumstances? We’re currently being governed by an unelected psychopath who advocates herd immunity while his sack of shit mate is recuperating from his first ever karmic brush with extreme arrogance. The very least we can do is try to give them a bit of kit. 

Not gonna lie, I’ve been finding it tough to write this thing about 3D printing PPE on the 9th consecutive day that the UK has had the worst Covid death numbers in Europe, and the 9th consecutive day that no one at our daily 5pm live news mumble has brought it up.

These unforgivable stats are not so much the elephant in the room at these daily acts of national condescension, they’re more of a huge coiled steaming brown turd in the room, dumped right there on the carpet, socially distanced between today’s Boris stand-in apparatchik, and that weird TV, inside which some stage managed forelock-tugging bootlicking Max Headrooms who dare to call themselves journalists live. It’s not like I expect ministers to start bragging about how terrible their response has been, but how hard would it be for anyone from our wonderful free press to ask how and why we’re doing worse than literally any other country given the head start we had? Are we still on a herd immunity strategy or is it simply criminal incompetence? Day 9 wearing the yellow jersey of shame in the Tour de Shite. Tomorrow will be day 10. As a wise man once said, things have got to get worse before they get even worse. 

And yet, there’s been an incredibly positive community reaction to this terrible situation. Most people want to help in some way, but a lot feel stuck and don’t know that to do, so when they hear that we’re making these things, they want to contribute towards materials. It seems so stark, this can-do attitude from most of the people I know, from everyone working throughout this crisis, not just the NHS but the guys who’ve packed and delivered these machines, the people working in the care homes, the supermarkets, refuse collection, all of them, compared to the lazy useless bullshitters at the very top. If anyone wants to know how to get started making some stuff, contact me via Twitter

John Crump (aka @MrOMFGWTAF)