Tabernacle resident uses a hobby to produce PPE for health care workers

With 3D printing, Greg Melville makes a needed commodity for those treating COVID-19 patients

Greg Melville completes a batch of PPE for occupational therapists who are working with COVID-19 patients in North Jersey (Greg Melville/Special to The Sun).

“We need P.P.E.”

Across the country, medical professionals have been shouting that message, sending out dire requests for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) so they can safely treat COVID-19 patients.

Tabernacle resident Greg Melville took matters into his own hands and silently created over 100 face shields and 166 ear straps for front-line employees, starting with the Tabernacle Rescue Squad on April 15.

Requests have been flooding in since.

Fire departments in Medford and Tabernacle, emergency medical services in Shamong and Collingswood, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia — Voorhees and Penn Medicine’s COVID-19 unit all received donations from Melville, thanks to the support he received from GoFundMe campaign donations.

Soon, Virtua Voorhees and Cooper University Medical Center will have more PPE for their virus treatment units.

“My initial plan was to start helping folks around the local area and that’s how this started,” Melville explained. “I had so many requests coming in from CHOP, Cooper, Virtua, AtlantiCare, Inspira and all over the place and it’s hard for me to say ‘I’m sorry I cannot help you.’ Everything is being left up to me.

“Whether or not I’ve been able to fill it is up to the donations I receive.”

The self-described nerd of 3D printing shies away from praise as he “inserts plastics and press print” and the printer pulls information from a file to process. Melville’s efforts could only be made possible with donations, especially as he has kept his fundraiser quiet and received financial support from other residents and his loved ones.

Files for the printer were downloaded from 3DVerkstan.com, an open-source website based out of Sweden that assists other 3D printer aficionados as they provide PPE to front-line employees across the globe.

Melville prides himself on transparency and has updated both a Facebook page he created — Gee3DPrints — and the GoFundMe campaign. Posts included the cost of materials he purchased with the funds, the amount of PPE created and who received it.

“I have spoken to a few other people on a slightly smaller scale, such as a teacher from Shawnee High School who wanted to put ideas together, as she and her students were doing it,” Melville noted.

Outside of his printing work, Melville is an account manager for Miles Technologies in Lumberton and a father. The computer support business had not been negatively affected by the pandemic, given management’s approach to ensure clients receive the necessary support.

The British expatriate of seven years said his printer had been used in years past to create “knick-knacky types of things” for a variety of occasions or to be displayed throughout his home.

As of April 10 — in an evening discussion over beer — Melville enlisted Tim Gillin as a partner to help him manage the influx of requests and provide updates on the progress of  equipment.

That same Friday Melville had 1,000 requests. So another printer was added by a family member. Soon after, a printer was donated by a company that wanted to remain anonymous.

Melville’s basement was transformed into an assembly line of equipment, requests and boxes ready to be dropped off. His family assists him in assembling some equipment as the printer runs in the background, sometimes until midnight.

“I just received another 220 requests and if things keep up, I’ll need another printer and this will be coming straight from the GoFundMe,” Melville noted.” I keep it transparent so people know where their money is going.”

It is uncertain when the need for PPE will be exhausted, but Melville hopes to return to printing as a hobby and create a functional “Iron Man” suit — without the laser beams and the Arc Reactor-powered heart.

Creating equipment for those who need it most is something Melville declines to receive kudos for, instead shedding light on people who volunteer their lives to treat COVID-19 patients. He  describes their bravery as mind-blowing.

“I’m not putting myself in danger, I’m not spending thousands of dollars doing this,” he noted. “I’m the middle man of all of this. It [the GofundMe] has been covering the costs of this and I can’t imagine someone else doing this, and I have been doing regular day things, I’m not doing anything crazy special.

“I’m just lucky I have the skills.”