Right now, you’re probably doing everything in your power not to touch shared surfaces. But some, like door handles, are virtually impossible to avoid. Here to make your life easier (and more sanitary) is “Hands-Free Architecture,” an open platform for downloading and 3D printing designs that can help protect against COVID-19.
The initiative, by designers Freddie Hong and Ivo Tedbury, invites designers from all over the world to submit templates for products they’ve designed in response to coronavirus that can be downloaded and 3D printed. The designs so far are adapters for opening doors with your forearm (one for bar door handles and one for handles that crank down). These are similar to a design developed by the Belgian 3D printing company Materialise, but they attach to door handles differently. Materialise’s design requires screws; Hands-Free Architecture’s uses zip ties.
Hong and Tedbury hope Hands-Free Architecture becomes a larger open-source platform, where designers can kick around ideas, and files are free to be shared, used, and modified ad infinitum. “One of the intentions with the design of the website was to open up the conversation and idea to designers to add or share their designs or modifications that are more suitable for their neighborhood,” says Hong.
3D printing has become one of the unsung heroes of the coronavirus crisis, helping produce everything from masks to respirator valves amid global shortages. Hong hopes 3D printing can be extended to more nonmedical products that can help keep the general population safe. “3D printing becomes a useful tool to react quickly to new demands,” Hong says. “[Our site] allows design hobbyists to make new products and prototypes and share the files online as well.”
To test the hands-free door handle adapters, Hong printed the design with a relatively inexpensive Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printer, but says that files are printable on any machine. Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) printers, another popular option, essentially melt a filament of thermoplastic and deposit it onto a print bed; since these (slightly toxic) plastics are the only materials that are used with the machines, these designs unfortunately cannot be made out of copper, for instance, which has added antiviral properties.
The obvious catch is that using these free designs depends on having a 3D printer, which isn’t the most common household appliance. With that in mind, Hong and Tedbury are hoping to develop their idea further. “We are trying to come up with a design that does not involve 3D printing,” Hong says. “[We’re] designing a template where you can download and print from normal printers and cut something out to make a valuable resource . . . like from a cardboard box.”