A UKAEA engineer has helped initiate a community effort, producing urgently needed face shields for the NHS.
Emil Jonasson, a Control Systems Software Engineer at RACE, is a member of rLAB – Reading’s Hackspace / Makerspace. After coming across an open-source design for a 3D printed headband (a component needed to make face shields for the NHS) created by Josef Prusa, he decided to post his idea onto the Hackspace discussion group, with a call for collaboration to support the urgent need for PPE within the NHS.
Two other rLab members quickly responded to Emil’s post: Alex Gibson, who owns 3D printing company Edumaker, and Matthew Richards, a Product Engineering Manager at Cisco, Reading (who is also an NHS Community First Responder with South Central Ambulance Service). Matthew had the NHS contacts to quickly determine the need for face shields in the local NHS trusts, as well as their willingness to accept them from “non-standard” suppliers as long as the right processes were put into place, this gave the project the justification needed to proceed.
With support from David Meads (Cisco’s Chief Executive UK & Ireland), a ‘print farm’ with over 30 3D printers has been set up at the Cisco offices in Reading, supported by a team of over 100 Cisco volunteers who have been trained to enable them to keep the print farm going 24/7 over a three shift rota.
As this team of collaborators are not specialised in manufacturing medical equipment, they have worked with independent manufacturing consultants Dr João de Barros and Dr Richard Brydges to design, document and approve the manufacturing procedures and processes. Their work has been pulled into an information pack, with the intent of making this open source, so other printers can use it.
Emil was tasked to source the additional materials needed to create the components for the shields. These included plastic sheeting for the visors, elastic fastenings to adjust the headbands and ZipLock bags (manufactured for food use) to seal the headbands in at the end of manufacturing. Ethan Flynn (Mechanical Design Engineer at RACE) was also keen to support the project and used his contacts from the Plastics industry to help Emil hunt down a supplier for the plastic sheeting needed for the visors, currently much in demand. UKAEA have also helped with the supply chain of materials.
This small community of collaborators are now ramping up production to 300 plus face shields per day, which are being donated directly to the local NHS Trusts .
Emil said: “I feel like we were very lucky, because we managed to get together just the right people with just the right contacts and expertise to make this happen really quickly. This project was set up and delivering face shields within a week, it’s amazing what it is now possible to do!”