Engineers at the University of Sheffield AMRC are using 3D printing and laser cutting to make up to 1,000 face visors per week for frontline NHS workers in the city.
The national call to produce more Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers prompted a modification to the shop floor at AMRC’s Design and Prototyping Testing Centre into an assembly line for PPE.
The team from AMRC’s Design and Prototyping Group (DPG) worked over the Easter weekend to deliver the first batch of 934 protective face shields to the Royal Hallamshire Hospital on Easter Monday. They plan to deliver an additional 1,000 visors to the Northern General Hospital by next week.
In a statement, Joe Palmer, the Senior Design and Development Engineer who is leading the AMRC’s response, said the team has coordinated its efforts with Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to ensure visors are being delivered to the local hospitals with the greatest need.
He said: “The manufacture of these visors has required an enormous amount of effort from a great many people and I want to thank everyone involved. People have been working in shifts for the past 12 days, working over the Easter weekend and on Easter Monday to make sure we could get this crucial kit to healthcare workers. It certainly would not have been possible without such a great team.”
The request for help to make face visors came less than a fortnight ago as demand for vital PPE kit for healthcare workers grew nationwide.
Palmer assembled a team to see how the AMRC could help meet the national need for face visors by using advanced manufacturing technologies.
They first chose a suitable design, carried out test prints, sourced material and transformed the workshop into an assembly line while maintaining social distancing and personal hygiene measures for coronavirus, as well as fire marshal and first aid cover.
Palmer said: “It’s not been as simple as print-and-go. A number of designs have been released freely on the internet and we tried a variety of different ones, eventually deciding on three which we can make quite quickly.
“Over the past week the focus has been on getting the materials together. The bottleneck has been getting hold of the clear film material for the actual visor, which is called PETG. There is very little material available for those who can manufacture in large volumes, organisations such as the AMRC.
“Fortunately, we managed to source some of that visor material last Thursday which allowed us to start assembly at the weekend and we have some more due to arrive this week so we can continue with production to help other hospitals.”
AMRC and the Nuclear AMRC are also helping Ventilator Challenge UK to produce 50,000 ventilators for the NHS, following a plea by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The consortium is focusing production on two existing ventilator designs which meet the high-level specification for a Rapidly Manufactured Ventilator System (RMVS) developed by clinicians and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).