SA lockdown means getting down for a good cause

Opportunity comes knocking when you least expect it, says Marshall Nelson, from Morgens Village. Especially, he says, when its an opportunity to do some good. 
Nelson, 40, has been manufacturing plastic protective face visors and dishing them out for free to friends, family and the community at large, since the explosion of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Founder of the Youth Media Movement(YMM) based at Glendale High School, in Rocklands, Marshall came up with an innovative way to put 3-D printers used during training and skills development workshops run by his organisation, to work, following the suspension of classes since the outbreak of the pandemic.
What started out as a drone-building workshop for teenagers, has now turned in to an operation to provide a much-needed but, increasingly scarce commodity, to help in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus.
 With surgical masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) being all the rage since the outbreak of the global pandemic, it’s become a must-have item for many people trying to avoid catching the dreaded virus. 
Although opinion regarding its the effectiveness is divided, the health department is encouraging people to wear cloth face masks – bought or home-made – instead of regular medical masks which it says should be reserved for healthcare workers. 
With time on his hands, the technology at his disposal and support from his family, Nelson rolled out his plans to create his home-made plastic face shields which resembles a welding mask or visor 
And just like regular face masks, Nelson’s visors started popping up all over the show, with many residents sporting his self-styled protective gear on social media, at shopping centres and community healthcare facilities.
Although not going into the technical details, Marshall explained that 3D printing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file.
He said the process enables one to produce complex shapes using less material than traditional manufacturing methods.
His visors consists of a headband and a sheet of plastic film and is put together using a laminating machine and his 3-D printers.
“One of the things that I discovered is that people can’t access affordable masks.  That’s why we took our 3-D printers because it was standing still,” he said.
Marshall said the aim was not just to focus on the current situation but to look at what will happen in a post-Covid world.
“As we move along with this project, we are also focusing on what we can do besides printing masks, 
“That is important because when Covid is done, we’ll need other products that we can showcase. We need to create our own products, phone covers, plastic cups, almost anything. The 3-D printer can do that easily.
“We’re moving into a different time zone and the important thing is that we need to empower the youth, empower the community.
“There are people working at the day hospital, patients, basic service providers at the court in Mitchell’s Plain, in Khayelitsha, where ever, these masks can go to them. 
For now the aim is to stop the spreading of the virus but ultimately to look at what’s beyond. 
“The mask is just a start. Like we did with the drones, that led to the masks, the masks can lead to something else.”
Although the visors are free, Marshall said he need a bit of help with sourcing 3D printing filament and laminating paper.
● For more information email marshall.nelson.ymdc@gmail.com or call 082 227 6514.