Close this search box.

We are creating some awesome events for you. Kindly bear with us.

Malaysian volunteers leveraging tech to prepare PPE for frontliners

Volunteers across Malaysia are leveraging technology to further drive the production of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontliners, and ensure that the protective gear goes to the right people as quickly as possible.

One such initiative, the Open Source Community Fight Against COVID-19, is a group one a massive social media platform comprised of tech enthusiasts who are using 3D printers, laser cutters and plastic injection moulding machines to produce safety gear.

Around 200 active volunteers have armed themselves with more than 500 3D printers, some of which were loaned to them by businesses that wanted to help.

One of its coordinators stated that the effort was kickstarted by the 3D printing community, but others with injection moulding machines have joined the cause, tremendously increasing the production speed.

The 3D printers take about 40 minutes to make one unit of PPE, needing more than a week to produce more than 20,000 units.

In comparison, the eight injection moulding facilities can produce more than 22,000 units in just a single day!

News spread like wildfire and soon varsities started joining in to help contribute where they could, he said.

Varsities that have joined the fray include Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) and Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka (Utem).

While the volunteers can mass-produce basic types of PPE, most are unable to make complex devices like ventilators, powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs) or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines.

This is due to them not having access to CNC (Computer Numerical Control) routers and other industrial machines.

Quality control was also a challenge but was mitigated by following standardised designs adapted from the international open-source community.

The group also streamlined the production processes, drawing up guidelines not only for producing PPE safely and hygienically but also organising and distributing them. The group had help from Sabah, Sarawak and the east coast.

However, the group soon realised that other large collectives were also working along the same lines, so the volunteers used various online groups to share their work and communicate with each other’s team leader.

Making it happen

Seeing that the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and volunteer groups had the same goals but were not necessarily on the same page, one volunteer felt the solution required something more elegant than just online groups and Google sheets.

She noted that it was quite disempowering to read how dire things are and not being able to do anything.

“When volunteering, I look for areas where I can be most helpful, but also I try not to replicate others’ work – if an initiative is already running that addresses a gap, I’d love to collaborate,” she said.

So she chose Airtable, a Cloud collaboration service that combines the features of a spreadsheet with a database, allowing everyone to view which hospitals require supplies and if the requests are being fulfilled.

She started by talking to the team members, analysing their work processes and finding out the info they required to work efficiently.

It is useful for data entry. Various volunteers just input the info into a form and the data is transformed into a spreadsheet. And it’s also great for giving the public an overview, as the data is updated dynamically.

There was also a need to address a second concern – verification – as the volunteers realised that some people were requesting for face masks and hand sanitisers to resell at inflated prices.

To combat profiteering, the groups not only started verifying requests, ensuring that they came from hospitals, but also started partnering with logistics companies so the supplies would go directly to the medical institutions.

Beyond the peninsula

While much of the news about the pandemic appears to be centred around the Klang Valley, other states are also facing the widespread virus and have formed their volunteer groups.

Compared to the Klang Valley, these groups are even more decentralised, having to be based out of cities and townships that are geographically remote from one another.

The Head of the Sarawak Multimedia Authority (SMA) Digital Village head stated that decentralisation has not been much of an issue, as most volunteers are not working as one organisation but a movement comprising many subgroups and individuals with a similar purpose.

He described the overall initiative as a loose collaboration of various groups across the state, made up of about a thousand volunteers collectively.

The SMA coordinated with universities and STEM trainers and even the Sarawak state library to kick off 3D printing, while social enterprise Tanoti Crafts and residents of the Puncak Borneo Prison in Kuching helped sew hospital coveralls.

Together they produced PPE like face shields with 3D printers and even assembled some with sponges, plastics and staplers, as well as disposable hoods and booties sewn out of sterilisation wrap.

The movement started in late March 2020, at about the same time as other groups, and they started coordinating and dividing up tasks as they got to know each other.

They also received aid from groups in the peninsula – some sent filaments for 3D printing.

The groups are very informal; teams are just focused on looking out for each other and getting through this. And though the groups are mostly self-contained, there’s a spirit of volunteerism among them.

Meanwhile, a collective in Sabah made up of groups and institutions volunteering 3D printers and skills, including the Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Sabah State Library, Malaysian Dental Association (MDA) and Petrosains Maker Studio.

Its community leaders said that though they coordinate with each other, everyone is free to work towards their own goals.

MDA not only helped in collecting and delivering the PPE to hospitals and medical centres but even sanitised the items and liaised with the Sabah health department.

They established that for Kota Kinabalu, while volunteers everywhere else in Sabah are advised to liaise with clinics or hospitals in their locality.


Qlik’s vision is a data-literate world, where everyone can use data and analytics to improve decision-making and solve their most challenging problems. A private company, Qlik offers real-time data integration and analytics solutions, powered by Qlik Cloud, to close the gaps between data, insights and action. By transforming data into Active Intelligence, businesses can drive better decisions, improve revenue and profitability, and optimize customer relationships. Qlik serves more than 38,000 active customers in over 100 countries.


CTC Global Singapore, a premier end-to-end IT solutions provider, is a fully owned subsidiary of ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation (CTC) and ITOCHU Corporation.

Since 1972, CTC has established itself as one of the country’s top IT solutions providers. With 50 years of experience, headed by an experienced management team and staffed by over 200 qualified IT professionals, we support organizations with integrated IT solutions expertise in Autonomous IT, Cyber Security, Digital Transformation, Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure, Workplace Modernization and Professional Services.

Well-known for our strengths in system integration and consultation, CTC Global proves to be the preferred IT outsourcing destination for organizations all over Singapore today.


Planview has one mission: to build the future of connected work. Our solutions enable organizations to connect the business from ideas to impact, empowering companies to accelerate the achievement of what matters most. Planview’s full spectrum of Portfolio Management and Work Management solutions creates an organizational focus on the strategic outcomes that matter and empowers teams to deliver their best work, no matter how they work. The comprehensive Planview platform and enterprise success model enables customers to deliver innovative, competitive products, services, and customer experiences. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, with locations around the world, Planview has more than 1,300 employees supporting 4,500 customers and 2.6 million users worldwide. For more information, visit


SIRIM is a premier industrial research and technology organisation in Malaysia, wholly-owned by the Minister​ of Finance Incorporated. With over forty years of experience and expertise, SIRIM is mandated as the machinery for research and technology development, and the national champion of quality. SIRIM has always played a major role in the development of the country’s private sector. By tapping into our expertise and knowledge base, we focus on developing new technologies and improvements in the manufacturing, technology and services sectors. We nurture Small Medium Enterprises (SME) growth with solutions for technology penetration and upgrading, making it an ideal technology partner for SMEs.


HashiCorp provides infrastructure automation software for multi-cloud environments, enabling enterprises to unlock a common cloud operating model to provision, secure, connect, and run any application on any infrastructure. HashiCorp tools allow organizations to deliver applications faster by helping enterprises transition from manual processes and ITIL practices to self-service automation and DevOps practices. 


IBM is a leading global hybrid cloud and AI, and business services provider. We help clients in more than 175 countries capitalize on insights from their data, streamline business processes, reduce costs and gain the competitive edge in their industries. Nearly 3,000 government and corporate entities in critical infrastructure areas such as financial services, telecommunications and healthcare rely on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift to affect their digital transformations quickly, efficiently and securely. IBM’s breakthrough innovations in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions and business services deliver open and flexible options to our clients. All of this is backed by IBM’s legendary commitment to trust, transparency, responsibility, inclusivity and service.