Today is our ‘official birthday, but it’s not a time for celebration, but one of reflection, though there are reasons to feel positive that I’ll go into later. Many of the founding members had already started to 3D print face shields (visors) and deliver them to hospitals etc. in desperate need. However, there was a clear advantage of coming together and pooling skills and resources to help even more people and that’s how 3D Crowd and the name was born (in a nutshell). Simply, a group of people who saw an immediate need and knew they could use their expertise and time in lockdown to help our frontline heroes.
Year ago today I made the first face shield.
From just a handful of people to a charity organisation of 8,000 volunteers @3dcrowduk
Delivering over 200,000+ Face shields to frontline workers.
— David Sims (@DavidNSims) March 21, 2021
As it turns out, and little did they know that they were far from alone. The number of volunteers quickly swelled to 1,000 and then 2,3,4,5,6,7 and finally 8,000 (ish). When I joined in mid-April and joined their Slack channel it felt like I’d walked into the Blade Runner of Slack channels. I had greeters telling me where to go, channels for everything you could imagine and many that you probably couldn’t, but my fondest memory was when I get a warning from the ‘Slack Police’ for not threading a conversation. Yes, this was a hive of activity the likes I’d never seen before and I’ve worked for some very big companies. The thing that struck me as I tried to take stock of this cacophony was that actually this very well run. Considering it was barely 3 weeks old, that is some achievement in itself before anything else is mentioned. My job apparently was pretty simple “Bring some direction, make some noise and help us raise as much as possible, we have no idea how long we are going to be needed for and we’ve got orders for 500,000 visors”
As I consumed more and more information, pictures and stories, I was often brought to tears as I sat working on my sons change table in the house we’d just purchased and moved into only 2 weeks before lockdown. The world was on fire, but this community was rising the challenge EVERY SINGLE DAY. I heard stories of people setting alarms so that they could get some sleep between prints, I saw pictures of people delivering boxes and boxes of face shields. I saw the best in people multiple times a day, there’s no doubt that it kept my spirits and energy levels up and personally I’ll always be grateful.
Over the next few months, we had to navigate drops in demand, funding, the number of hubs, people coming off furlough and people were just generally and understandably tired. Thankfully we hit our funding goals and whilst we would never fulfil every order we ever received, we did break the 200,000 barrier and distributed another 185,000 thanks to the amazing efforts of our partners Nissan. At this point, it is worth mentioning some of our amazing partners (as we will call them).
DHL, without we wouldn’t have distributed as many as we did so quickly.
Bike Shed Volunteer Riders, our thanks isn’t as official as the Queens, but you deserve as much praise as you get.
3M Buckley Innovation Centre and the University of Huddersfield
Micro Nav Ltd, thank you for paying for the materials that allowed a volunteer to contribute over 150 face shield frames to the collective effort, and for the use of the company printer.
Dales Cycles Ltd, Central hub for Glasgow, and now the central hub for all of Scotland. Jim was very helpful driving between Glasgow & Falkirk to get orders, Filament & frames where they needed to be, making the whole operation much quicker and easier to organise. Having a central drop off point for makers meant it as really easy to collect frames on a weekly basis.
Meredith Welding Solutions, Telford, Shrewsbury who kindly offered to Plasma cut and supply a replacement set of cutter disks for a plastic shredder to recycle some of the waste plastic mountains that we have collectively generated. The cost of these disks would have been quite extensive but Matt Meredith kindly cut and supplied them for free as a thank you for what we have been doing helping the NHS.
Bishop Grosseteste University. Lincolnshire Hub with several amazing volunteers and really helped us help our local region
Neg Earth (LH2). For donating space for nearly a month which we were able to clean thousands of face shields in.
So that brings us to today. We are still going and in fact, the website is getting a new lick of paint soon to show the world what we are up to now and better place us for the next stage of 3D Crowd. We are of course fighting to get our VAT back, but aside from that, yes, the number of volunteers is now smaller and the speed of progress is slower too, but the level of the new projects for disaster relief, 3d printing limbs, ventilator splitters etc. means that they are far more interesting than repeatedly printing face shields.
We’ve also just launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise much-needed funds to help us grow and continue for years to come. So your involvement doesn’t need to be huge on your time or wallet, but it can still help 3D Crowd continue to be a positive force for change. A legacy born out of the pandemic that isn’t doom and gloom, a ray of hope through a 3d printer nozzle.
To EVERYONE WHO DONATED their time, money, 3D Printer, car and sanity. THANK YOU!!!! Please never forget the important part you played when people needed help the most.
Adam (Still volunteering as Marketing Director even though I said I’d only help out for 2 weeks) Clarke
I’ll leave you with Holding Out For a 3D Crowd Hero. Yes, we were (and still are) a talented bunch.