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Project Spotlight: Manufacturer Database

A database of local volunteers in 3D printing, laser cutting, injection molding, and other things

Written by: Tif Ho

The Challenge

As the COVID-19 pandemic surges on, people on the frontlines face an increasing shortage of protective and medical equipment. The explosion of COVID cases and disruption in the global supply chain has created an equipment crisis that endangers essential workers, COVID patients, and the general public.

Hospital staff, caregivers, and other essential workers are asked to put their lives on the line to save others – without the personal protective equipment necessary to mitigate their own risk. These workers lack equipment such as face masks, face shields, and gloves. Medical centers also have a limited supply of Coronavirus testing kits and ventilator parts. 

To combat the need, manufacturers are offering their services to produce life-saving equipment. 3D printing and laser cutting have proven to be particularly useful in speeding up the production process.

Unlike other forms of manufacturing, which take days or weeks, these processes drastically reduce the time needed to produce equipment. Manufacturers can go from design to prototype to production within a matter of hours. For example, in the past two months, Hewlett Packard has already manufactured and distributed thousands of face masks, face shields, respirator parts, testing swabs, and ventilator parts across the United States and Europe.

While many manufacturers have volunteered, organizing and mobilizing these volunteers has been a logistical challenge

Helpful Engineering, created to combat Coronavirus, is an example of volunteers meeting this challenge. The organization includes numerous volunteers, ranging from designers to builders to manufacturers. However, information about volunteers has been fragmented, stored in multiple spreadsheets and databases. This fragmentation has made it a challenge to take action and start production.

The Solution

In order to organize and mobilize manufacturers, Helpful Engineering put together a manufacturing database project. The project is led by Ruurd Moelker, a full-stack engineer and volunteer with Helpful Engineering. Moelker says that he aims to put together “a database of local volunteers in 3D printing, laser cutting, injection molding, and other things.” 

The database was created for and specifically targets manufacturer use. Manufacturers can list their capabilities, be contacted, and collaborate through it.

See the database:

Learn more about this projecthere

Volunteer for for this project through their website: here

Offer resources for for this project: here


To create the database, Moelker and a team of five developers sourced information on volunteers through several available spreadsheets. These spreadsheets were put together by the Helpful Engineering Slack community. By compiling available data, the team has put together a single source of information that is easily accessible and ready to be used. The information is presented in both list and map view. The project team has also added search and export functions.


The database lists more than 5,000 volunteers in 3D printing, injection molding, laser cutting, CNC (computer numerical control) manufacturing, and more. Manufacturers are located in numerous countries and cities around the world, include both individuals and companies, and range from small-scale hobbyists to large-scale factories. Currently, the team is in the midst of fixing bugs; then the database will be ready to launch.

Want more information?

Helpful Engineering was launched in early March and is run entirely by volunteers. We currently have more than 4,000 volunteers around the world – a community of engineers, manufacturers, writers, and marketers. 

See the database:

Volunteer for for this project through their website: here

Offer resources for for this project: here

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