Engineers at the University of Wolverhampton are utilising a network of 3D printers to produce headbands and face-shields for frontline staff treating patients in the West Midlands.
Using Prusa 3D printing machines from sources including the Telford Innovation Campus, staff from the University’s School of Engineering have collaborated to perfect a fast and stream-lined manufacturing process for RC3 headbands using Polyethylene terephthalate glycol modified (PETG). As a part of the social distancing policy, some staff are printing headbands from home, using University equipment or personal 3D printers.
When the headbands are printed, a transparent plastic visor, cut to shape using the School of Engineering’s Zund cutting table, is added to the front, creating a protective face shielding barrier.
In a statement, Dr Syed Hasan, head of the School of Engineering at the University, said: “Engineers have been discussing and collaborating on how to combat the COVID-19 pandemic even before we began social distancing.
“Finding ways to quickly manufacture PPE using the…technology we have available is very important, but the job is only half done. We need to produce thousands more masks in the coming weeks to help those who need it.”
PETG can be sterilised and reused, unlike many of the current headbands that are being discarded after three hours of use. A shipment of 50 visors has been delivered to Wolverhampton’s New Cross hospital, and 90 more have been delivered to community nurses. Almost 400 masks have been printed so far, with many more due.
With more 3D printers being made available to the School of Engineering by their industrial contacts and collaborators, the team are hoping to get as many as 30 printers running in a 24 hour production process, with a machine making nine headbands per hour, and the potential to make over 1,500 headbands every 24 hours, provided there is enough PETG.
Professor Nazira Karodia, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Regional Engagement, who is co-ordinating the University’s community response to COVID-19, said: “I’m proud of the team in the School of Engineering for their commitment to using their skills and knowledge to combat COVID-19.”
The University is investigating other ways to contribute to the fight against COVID-19 and has donated PPE, including gloves, safety goggles and clinical waste bags to local NHS Trusts and a hospice as well as using its staff from the Faculty of Science and Engineering to produce hand and surface sanitiser.