Haris Salkic, a sophomore studying mechanical engineering, had never pondered that his startup company HAS Robotics would use a 3D printer to produce surgical visors -- until the COVID-19 pandemic hit his native Bosnia and Herzegovina's (BiH).
The visors -- produced at a pace of 15 to 20 pieces a day -- are not for sale but for donation to medical professionals in Salkic's home town Brcko, some 200 km north from the capital city Sarajevo.
Health care officials in Brcko said that the donation is much appreciated, as coronavirus pandemic had caused a shortage of medical protective gear in Brcko and BiH in general.
The soaring demand for medical protective equipment across the globe made the purchase of these goods difficult and time-consuming. Officials in Brcko said Wednesday that more than a week ago, they made a bulk purchase of protective medical gear, which are yet to arrive from China via the airport in Belgrade, the capital of neighboring Serbia.
The surgical visor made by Salkic's startup is basically a transparent plastic sheet that protects the face of a medical worker from splashes of body fluid while tending to virus-infected patients.
The transparent sheet is attached to an around-the-head band with adjustable snap-fastener, just like the one on the backside of baseball hats.
"It is important to say that this model is certified by Czech health authorities," Salkic said, explaining that the blueprints used in 3D production are shared by the Czech company Prusa Research for free, non-commercial use.
"Another good thing is that this [the visor] is not for single use. It can be disinfected and reused many times," Salkic told Xinhua.
Salkic, now studying mechanical engineering at the International University of Sarajevo (IUS), had been riveted by mechanics in his early childhood while hanging around with his father in a garage workshop.
"My father had a small construction machine. I remember we always worked on it and repaired it. I loved it and he would always take me with him," said Salkic.
His high-school project -- 3D printing of a robotic arm -- was designed as a tool for practical education in robotics, mechanics, electronics and programming. The invention won him the first prize at last year's Sarajevo Business Forum Start-Up Challenge.
Salkic said he used the prize of 33,000 convertible mark (18,300 US dollars) to register his company HAS Robotics and to produce and sell robotic arms.
The influx of first orders, however, coincided with coronavirus outbreak, which stalled the schooling and slowed down the economy.
Data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control showed that the BiH reported 257 confirmed cases with five deaths as of Sunday.
Teaming with his cousin Mirza Karahasanovic, a physical therapist, Salkic decided to convert the production from robotic arms to full-face medical protective visors--by a 3D printer.
Salkic called on all owners of 3D printers to join them to meet the high demands from medical institutions in BiH.
"Visors are very much needed, especially in these crucial times when we don't know how many cases we'll have tomorrow," Nihad Sibonjic, the director of a hospital in Brcko, told Xinhua.
"We are thankful for the donation," Sibonjic said. "We also hope our efforts to prevent the spread of virus will be successful, and we won't have to use the protective gear that much."