Helping Regional Health System against COVID19 using FabNEX, a public FabLab network in Extremadura

Pablo García Rodríguez
Junta de Extremadura (Government of Extremadura)

COVID19 has challenged every world health system. In Spain, not only hospitals are overcrowded but health specialists and essential workers do not have adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), or enough diagnostic or assistance equipment. In this sense, was born as a national maker association to help solve this lack. This association was organized in a decentralized way, being the regional group in Extremadura. FabNEX network (FabNEXn from now) is formed by Extremadura University, Jesús Usón Minimally Invasive Surgery Centre and Extremadura Government with a clear goal, spread and research in digital fabrication technologies.
Its main work has been the fabrication of face shields. Approximately 65,000 units were fabricated in Extremadura using several manufacturing techniques. FabNEXn main tasks have been design and productivity optimization, by improving and redesigning digital models, maintaining quality for each used technology. Once shields were manufactured, they were incorporated into an assembly line with volunteers adding an acetate and a rubber band. Security forces and civil organisations (NGOs) distributed them, fulflling all regional demands and even helping other regions to meet theirs. This would not have been possible without local enterprises, both helping with their fabrication resources or with donation of raw materials. A relevant case has been the Catelsa company, making more than 10,000 visors by plastic injection molding.
Furthermore, FabNEXn has developed two other relevant projects. The frst one is the personalised snorkel mask adaptations (using hundreds of donated units) to be used as ventilators masks. Individual adaptation is required for each mask and each hospital, due to their different standards. The second is the development, as part of a teamwork, for the creation of fully homologated low-cost capnographs. In this sense, the fabrication of low-cost health diagnostics machinery has two positive impacts: cost reduction for Public health system, and local production, using a European supply chain. As a conclusion, thanks to these collaborations, not only several actors have helped the National Health System, but stronger synergies have emerged between all these actors, which may lead to productive collaborations in the future. The FabNEXn was born from a project, using ERDF funds, as a hub with the goal of gathering different people (more than 150 individual associates by now), and distributing and coordinating all the resources and results achieved. Extremadura is a vast region with more than 40.000 km2 and FabNEXn has reached almost every health centre in less than 3 weeks.