Volunteers in the UK have pledged to use their 3D printers to help make face masks for the NHS, BBC reports.

As the coronavirus pandemic rages across the world, there is a dire shortage of personal protective equipment, which puts the healthcare workers on the front lines in high risk of contracting coronavirus. 3D-printer owners rally to use their devices to create reusable face masks. Now more companies are also joining in to deliver 3D-printed face masks to hospitals. The Chinese company Creality has fabricated thousands of buckles that make face masks less painful to wear for medical staff treating coronavirus patients in Shenzhen, China. Architects in the U.S. have teamed up to manufacture face mask band based on open-source 3D files at a speed of 5,000 face masks per week.

Amid the crisis when countries are struggling to meet demands for medical equipment, 3D printing is an effective and low-cost method to fill the manufacturing gaps. During this pandemic, 3D printing has been employed by people in medical, architectural and educational fields. 3D printing starts from digital 3D file of an object, which can be created by CAD modeling software or 3D scanning, or downloaded from open-source database. Creating 3D file through software is not suitable for amateurs, and it usually takes several days or even months to create a printable 3D model.

3D scanning overcomes the inconvenience, and creates 3D files faster and easier. Normally a 3D scanner shortens modeling time in minutes or hours. The 3D files can be directly exported to 3D printers for printing, or post-processed to make some alterations. The combination of 3D scanner and 3D printer will bring more possibilities to manufacturing, saving time, money and labor for manufacturers, creating more fun for customers.