Developed by InkSmith, a 3D printing startup in the educational technology sector, The Canadian Shield was created to address the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) needed by frontline workers to combat COVID-19.
CEO & FOUNDER
InkSmith Founder and CEO, Jeremy Hedges, had been following the COVID-19 pandemic since late January 2020. Soon after the virus made its way to Canada, it became clear that there would be a domestic shortage of PPE for frontline workers at hospitals, healthcare facilities and beyond.
In early March 2020, after seeing an article about an Italian company using 3D printers to manufacture small valves for hospital ventilators, a number of community members reached out to see if this was something InkSmith’s 3D printers could model after in Canada. Jeremy Hedges was also approached by Dr. Neil Naik, President of the Kitchener-Waterloo Academy of Medicine, about InkSmith's ability to 3D print parts for local hospitals.
InkSmith quickly discovered they were in a position to retool their existing infrastructure to manufacture PPE face shields. Within hours, InkSmith pivoted from selling 3D printers and lasers to school boards to using 3D printers and laser cutters to manufacture face shields.
The first iteration of the PPE face shield, nicknamed "The Community Shield," is a 3D printed mask designed by Prusa Research, from the Czech Republic from the Czech Republic. After printing several of these face shields for testing at Cambridge Memorial Hospital, InkSmith quickly realized 3D printing was not a scalable solution for the looming PPE shortage. At one to two hours per headband, it would take a fleet of 3D printers to produce just a few hundred shields.
To help bridge a short-term community solution, InkSmith put out an open call to anyone in Waterloo Region with a 3D printer to assist in printing headbands for The Community Shield on March 21st, 2020. Within 48 hours, InkSmith received hundreds of 3D printed parts from all over the Region to create PPE face shields. InkSmith then cleaned, assembled and distributed these shields to local undersupplied hospitals.
As the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada continued to evolve, the need for PPE face shields increased far beyond the initial demand. Even if they had access to every single 3D printer in Ontario, InkSmith still wouldn't have been able to produce enough face shields to meet the demand. The InkSmith team went back to the drawing board to create a PPE face shield that could be quickly produced and manufactured at scale.
After dozens of iterations, InkSmith prototyped a laser cut version of the PPE face shield, eliminating the need for time-consuming 3D printing. This laser cut version of the shield is made entirely out of thin plastic, making it disinfectable and therefore reusable.
Soon after its inception, the InkSmith team affectionately named their design, "The Canadian Shield," a pun on its origins and mission; the name may be light-hearted, but the impact InkSmith hopes to achieve is not.
Since receiving their Class 1 Medical Device license from Health Canada, The Canadian Shield's team has been working around the clock to transform their office into a full-scale manufacturing facility. Just one week after the initial concept was introduced, the first batch of The Canadian Shield shipped out to the front-lines.
The Canadian Shield team is now focused on producing enough PPE face shields to meet the healthcare needs of Ontarians, and soon after the rest of Canada. Their goal? A Canadian healthcare system that doesn’t need to rely on global supply chains to keep our healthcare workers safe, one face shield at a time.