FTSE-250-listed distributor Electrocomponents is urging anybody with a 3D printer to start making masks for the NHS after healthcare unions warned that frontline workers were not being given proper protective equipment. 

The company will this week launch a call to arms for people to start making the  masks, with chief executive Lindsley Ruth saying those with 3D printers could “make a difference”.

Electrocomponents will donate medical-grade plastic material needed to print masks and make its NHS-approved design available to everyone, it said. 

The company has already opened up a 3D “printing farm” in Corby, Northamptonshire, which will be producing 1000 masks a week, and said this was the first of several planned sites across the country.

It said the National 3D Printing Society had loaned machines for the project but that more printers were needed.

“Everyone has a role to play in the fight against coronavirus,” Mr Ruth said. 

The masks, which will be sterilised before delivery, take less than an hour to manufacture using 3D printers. 

Electrocomponents is launching the campaign amid growing concern over whether NHS staff are being given adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) as they care for patients suffering from coronavirus. 

Over the weekend, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) urged its members to refuse to treat patients with the deadly virus “as a last resort” if they were not given the right protective equipment.

At least 19 members of NHS staff have died after contracting Covid-19 since the outbreak began.

The Department of Health has said it is working “around the clock” to give medics the PPE they require. It has repeatedly said any shortages are due to logistical problems, and not a lack of supply. 

Electrocomponents said the partnership with the National 3D Printing Society would also help it with managing routes to supply to the NHS. 

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