Crisis spurs innovation. Over a year into the pandemic, the world’s innovators have pushed the boundaries of what is possible. In Malta, local inventors have also done their part medical front liners handle control infections.
Here are seven Maltese inventions that were born out of the COVID-19 crisis.
1. Star Wars-inspired PPE.
Nothing symbolises the COVID-19 era more than a face mask or visor. Inventors in Malta turned to the art of 3D printing to create personal protective gear at a time when it’s needed most.
Nicholas Vella Magri Demajo, a 3D freelance artist, used his crafting skills to create awesome and protective face masks inspired by a certain fallen Jedi. The result? The Dark Vader mask.
2. 3D printed visors.
It’s not all about Jedis and branded facemasks. Just a few weeks after Malta registered its first COVID-19 case, Invent 3D director David Sciberras got to work to make DIY face shields. Using an open-source design, Sciberras was able to make low-cost, plastic face shields – ready to order in case Malta runs out.
3. 3D printed ventilators.
Masks may be the best symbol of COVID-19, but ventilators are by far the grimmest. When the pandemic began, many feared hospitals wouldn’t cope with the demand for ventilators, so local teams of experts got to work creating their own.
In May 2020, three local companies came together to build ventilators, using open-source plans from an MIT project and locally available resources: Toly Group, Trelleborg, Mattermake and Evolve. In less than two weeks, the team managed to 3D print, assemble and program a ventilator system in line with the medical requirements of Mater Dei Hospital. Thankfully none were needed.
4. A low-cost ventilator inspired by motorcycle engines.
Another group, involving five Maltese professionals, pioneered a low-cost ventilator inspired by motorcycle engines. It was spearheaded by Maltese water treatment engineer Marco Cremona who took time eased up by the pandemic to help hospitals cope with the health crisis.
Even before the COVID-19 spiked prices for the medical equipment, ventilators could go for anywhere between €20,000 to €40,000.
The prototype cost the team less than €1,000, less than 10% of market ventilators. It was built within a garage with 3D printers.
5. A mass disinfection machine.
The University of Malta’s own engineers took their training to the real world and developed a vital prototype: a mass disinfection unit. At a time when the supply PPE was limited, their creation enabled staff at Mater Dei to disinfect their equipment in no time at all. Their low-cost prototype could disinfect up to nine N95 or FFP2 respirators at one go, over 400 per day. It was donated to Mater Dei.
6. An international COVID-19 e-book
Knowledge is power and keeping the public informed with up-to-date information during a health crisis is essential to save lives.
A Maltese student studying Medicine and Surgery at the University of Malta, Rebecca Caruana, helped write an e-book titled COVID-19: The Reason Why The Earth Stood Still In 2020, alongside international doctors and medical experts.
The no-nonsense e-book aimed at creating an illustrated guide into understanding everything one needs to know about the COVID-19 pandemic, based on reliable sources like the World Health Organisation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
You can still grab your own copy for free here.
7. A COVID-19 chatbot
Meanwhile, A week after Malta’s ground-zero patient was discovered, four doctors and one logistician in Malta set up a Facebook chatbot to help answer the public’s questions about the virus.
“Wenliang” was a private initiative of pressure group Digital Health Malta, which set up the chatbot with the intent of using social media as a tool to answer basic questions you may have about the coronavirus.
It has the ability to answer questions like ‘do I need to wash my hands?’ and ‘what are the symptoms?’ as well as official recommendations on what you can do to protect yourself.
Moments of crisis force people to think, act and react on faster time scales than usual. It pushes the boundaries of what is believed possible and leads to creative solutions like the ones above. So, in this time of crisis, grab your team, friends or go-solo, find a problem and dare to think outside the box.
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