How Modular Realms helped healthcare workers in the COVID 19 pandemic

Posted by Annabelle Collins on

Hi, I'm Annabelle! Modular Realms is my business. This is my account of the early days of COVID and what Modular Realms did to help out.


In the weeks leading up to the 2020 COVID 19 pandemic, I was a student living in New Zealand preparing for my first Kickstarter.

I wanted to see if people would be interested in magnetic, double-sided dungeon tiles... (spoiler alert! They were!)

After a few months of work I had everything ready to go. I decided I'd launch my Kickstarter next Tuesday....


That Saturday New Zealand went into level 4 lockdown.


image of New Zealand's announcement of the level 4 lockdown due to Covid 19


In the weeks after it first happened the PPE shortage was on the news a lot.

You'd go online and see posts from worried doctors and paramedics about not being able to get masks. 

And I'd just spent my savings on a bunch of 3D printers...


So I did what anyone would and put the Kickstarter on hold for a month or two, so we could take time out to volunteer.

My mum agreed to learn how to be my remote 3D printing technician (earning her title of Overworked Apprentice!), and began printing NHS masks in their dining room.


Some of the emergency PPE (masks and face shields) that Modular Realms printed and provided free of charge to the NHS as part of an emergency volunteer PPE manufacturing group


While the Overworked Apprentice did everything on the 3D printing side in the UK, I spent my time helping on the administration side for a similar organisation in New Zealand.


It was written about in the newspapers :)

The newspaper headline covering Modular Realms' voluntary work producing PPE in the COVID 19 pandemic


 It was kind of cool really! I mean, the PPE shortage was truly horrible but almost immediately this network of everyday people sprung up online to help. 


Doctors were being forced to reuse masks and care home workers were left with nothing.

And suddenly there were all these small businesses, maker spaces and hobbyists working together to solve the problem!

Modular Realms became one part in a network of thousands of people all over the country turning their machines and equipment to making emergency PPE.


More images of the emergency PPE face shields Modular Realms made as part of a volunteer effort during the early days of the covid 19 pandemic


My overworked apprentice (mum) modelling one of the many face shields she made for the NHS

The overworked apprentice would spend her days 3D printing face shields.

She'd process all the prints and sterilised them by soaking them in bleach.

She would package up the face shields and they would be quarantined, then no-contact collected by volunteer delivery drivers (DPD offered their services for free during this time!).

The emergency substitute PPE was then distributed to those who needed it most, often NHS nurses and care home workers.


Eventually the supply lines got sorted and enough proper masks and PPE were being manufactured that the emergency home-made PPE thankfully became redundant.

My first Kickstarter where (fun fact) I did all my photo editing in Microsoft Powerpoint


I launched my Kickstarter only a few months behind schedule but it was none the worse for that. :)


The pandemic was a global disaster and it was a pretty heavy time for a lot of us. But my memories of the early pandemic are actually pretty hopeful.

All of these people coming together - delivery drivers, small businesses, maker spaces, filament retailers and more, all working to help people they'd never met.


I must have spent hundreds of pounds of my savings on filament making those masks. But everyone did. You didn't really think about it, you just did it.

Because someone needed help and you were able to help them.


I want to stress that Modular Realms was just one small cog in a machine of hundreds of volunteers. We were all just small people, but working together we were able to make a big difference to the real heroes of the pandemic!


Galadriel - even the smallest person can change the course of the future


I'm proud of the work we did then :)

And I'm grateful that Modular Realms could be part of such a beautiful piece of history!


A heart with the Modular Realms logo in it

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