SOUTHAMPTON has become the centre of a volunteer effort to provide medical and care staff with 3D-printed face protectors.

The city is home to the central south’s 3DCrowd UK hub, part of a national network of 3D printer owners who are turning over their equipment to making personal protective equipment.

Craig Monk, of Southampton business CRM CAD, is a volunteer for the network and has dedicated all three of his 3D printers to making parts for masks.

He approached Solent Business Centre, where he rents office space, about the site becoming the regional hub for 3DCrowd UK.

He said: “It’s been a complete whirlwind. In just four weeks, 3DCrowd UK has gone from zero to over 8,000 volunteers. At first, we all sent our parts to a single distribution centre in Sheffield, but it soon became clear that regional hubs were required to get the kit collated and distributed quickly.”

Laura Mills from Solent Business Centre said, “Craig had a marvellous idea and we were able to offer him free space for storing and assembling these face masks which are so vital to the NHS.”

The 3DCrowd UK Central South hub was open a week after Mr Monk raised the idea.

He said: “Nationally, we’ve had nearly a million online orders and expect to supply around 50,000 masks from the Southampton hub with requests coming from hospital trusts, GP surgeries and social care providers.

“I’ve got a team of volunteers lined up to pack and dispatch. They’ve all got partners and family working for the NHS, so they want to do their bit.”

With so many volunteers, 3DCrowd UK says funding is the critical factor limiting supply of face shields at the scale required. It is calling for people to support a fundraising appeal at

Solent Business Centre normally houses around 80 businesses, but with 95 per cent of them working at home, it says it is supporting them as practically as possible.

Members of 3DCrowd UK range from hobbyists to professional 3D printers. The network coordinates a community response, printing and distributing the parts.

The printers make the headband part of the face shield. The parts are then to the closest hub, where a clear plastic film is placed on the front and elastic is attached to the back. Medical and social care staff can request the shields by filling in a form on the website.