Seniors create 3D printing organization to provide personal protective equipment


By Katherine Lee, Co-T/E Life Editor

Senior Diviprakash Kuppusamy watches as his 3D printer finishes making the final piece needed to assemble a face shield. Gathering the 3D printed parts, including a headband, bottom reinforcement and several clips, he fits them together with a sheet of clear plastic to finish the face shield. He then places it into a box with 11 other face shields and tapes the box shut. The following day, he will drop them off at the Paoli Hospital.

Inspired by a lack of personal protective equipment in the country, Kuppusamy and senior Arnav Kaushik created united3D, an organization that 3D prints and distributes personal protective equipment, in order to help hospitals and health care workers in their community.

Initially, before starting united3D, Kaushik and Kuppusamy distributed personal protective equipment on a smaller scale. 

“When we got off school in March, I ended up with a lot of extra time, and everywhere you went on the Internet or if you watched any sort of news, you would immediately know that there was a huge lack of PPE across the nation, and, having all that extra time, I decided to look into ways I could actually help,” Kaushik said.

Having 3D printers at home, the two started to help out by printing personal protective equipment from models available online through a 3D printing company called Prusa. In the following weeks, they printed and donated over 200 mask buckles to Main Line Health.

In late April, Kaushik and Kuppusamy decided to expand their efforts and create an organization dedicated to printing and donating personal protective equipment. 

“(Kaushik) brought up this idea that we could make this a bigger impact: not just our own community but a bunch of different communities, even outside our own state. That was pretty much the beginning point of united3D and we registered for 501(c), which is the nonprofit status,” Kuppusamy said.

According to Kaushik, when coming up with a name for the organization, an important consideration was that they wanted a name that wasn’t directly associated with the pandemic. They wanted it to be pandemic proof in the sense that even after the pandemic passes, they will be able to continue to help the community in other ways with the organization. With this in mind, they decided on the name united3D because it also captured the idea of unity in a difficult and divisive time.

“I thought ‘united’ in the name would convey the whole coming together of a community because at the time, it was close to late April, and there was a ton of division because everyone was freaking out because no one really knew what to do because we never planned for that type of scenario so quickly. So I thought ‘united’ would really bring something to the table in the sense of unity and collaboration,” Kaushik said.

In the early stages of united3D, Kaushik and Kuppusamy worked to develop everything from the website to the layout of the organization.

“I made the name, logo, registered the domain and created the website. So that was pretty much the first of a seven-day spike, a giant spree that we had where every single day we were doing a crazy amount of stuff. We were getting funds ready, we were figuring out the printing logistics and organization structure and everything,” Kaushik said.

As Kaushik and Kuppusamy gathered funds and volunteers joined the effort, united3D rapidly began to grow. Inspired by the support, the two decided to recruit regional managers in different states including New York, New Jersey and North Carolina in order to help more communities.

“As (united3D) moved along and as we grew, we were inspired by the efforts of our own volunteers and how they were so passionate about doing this. So we just wanted to keep expanding, we wanted to see how far we can get. And that led to some pretty big milestones in a short amount of time,” Kaushik said.

One such milestone was receiving a $16,000 grant from GetUsPPE, an organization that provides personal protective equipment to frontline workers and under-resourced communities, after a 15-minute Zoom call with the director of marketing and their partnership consultant. 

“It blew our expectations because we only needed maybe three or four thousand (dollars) for the current orders. So with that extra money, we were able to increase our production capacity and ask for more orders,” Kaushik said.

According to Kuppusamy, united3D has currently reached nine states, delivered more than 2,000 units, helped more than 50 hospitals and raised about $18,600.

“I feel very proud (of what we’ve accomplished) and I’m very glad that I hopefully have saved a life or two in the process of making face shields, mask buckles and everything,” Kuppusamy said. 

In the near future, united3D will continue to focus on creating personal protective equipment to donate to hospitals and health care workers. However, once the pandemic passes, Kaushik and Kuppusamy hope to branch out and take on other community engagement projects with 3D printing, such as developing prosthetics and providing 3D printing services.