When Clara Remacha Corbalán and Abdel Hakim Moustafa met for coffee in early March, it felt like the final moment of calm before a storm. The next day, Spain declared a state of emergency as the COVID-19 pandemic spread through the country, and within a few days, the Barcelona hospital where Moustafa worked as a cardiologist was inundated with COVID-19 patients. Spain has been one of the hardest-hit countries in the pandemic, with close to 250,000 cases to date, 20% of which have been healthcare workers.
“Suddenly, everything had changed drastically and completely,” says Moustafa, who describes those early days of the pandemic as like seeing a hurricane coming without knowing how to prepare. Doctors and nurses from across the hospital were assigned to the ICU, where they worked around the clock to care for critically ill patients, quickly depleting their stocks of PPE (personal protective equipment). “We were overwhelmed,” Moustafa says. “Clara and I talked about what we could do in the short term and how we could take advantage of HP technology to do it.”
Before the crisis, Remacha, medical market development consultant and COVID-19 response applications lead at HP’s 3D Printing & Digital Manufacturing lab in Barcelona, had been working with Moustafa at Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau on developing 3D-printed anatomical models to help educate patients and guide surgeons. Once COVID-19 hit, they quickly shifted to design and develop the protective gear Moustafa and his colleagues so desperately needed — all while working from a distance.
With Remacha working from home and Moustafa powering through 12-hour shifts at the hospital, their rapid-fire collaboration became central to the design, testing, and approval of a new adjustable, 3D-printed face shield that could be manufactured locally and delivered immediately to healthcare workers on the front line.