Laser cutting faceguards

University of Hull face shield design set to increase UK production

The University of Hull is leading a collaboration to produce face shields to support the NHS and other healthcare organisations in the region – with new designs and agile manufacturing techniques set to increase production capacity across the country.

New face shield designs being produced by engineers at the University could increase production of the life-saving equipment across the UK.

The new designs, which are aligned to mass production and which take just minutes to make, will be shared nationally to enable production in other regions, maximising the UK’s supply of urgently-needed face shields for the NHS and healthcare organisations to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The new designs, which the team of engineers at the University has been working on around-the-clock with NHS consultants and industrial partners to develop, can be produced by high volume manufacturing techniques such as laser cutting and injection moulding, rather than 3D printing. This will increase the amount that can be produced every day from 100 to more than 2000-5000.

The process started with a request from NHS consultants.  The team used the designs shared by the engineering and maker community which they adapted to suite their 3D printers and to fit with the feedback from medical consultants.

Nathan Brown, senior lecturer in the department of Engineering and lead on this project, said:

“Across the University, we are using our research, expertise and resources in a diverse range of ways to help with the nation’s effort to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As a team, we have invested a huge amount of time and effort in developing the designs. We have been in regular contact with those on the frontline of the NHS – to develop designs that will protect staff but can be produced quickly and with maximum efficiency.

"While it has been brilliant to see our region come together to produce face shields in line with the global initiative by 3D printing, we have established that this method is time-intensive – even with the best 3D printers available – and may not be able to generate the stocks needed by all the healthcare organisations in our region. We hope that our partners in this project – including the University’s Aura Innovation Centre, Hull University Business School, as well as businesses, industrial partners, school and colleges – will continue to support the project.

Laser cutting faceguards

So far the University-led collaboration has been able to deliver approximately 500 face shields in under 4 days and now aims to produce more than 20,000 face shields per week using the industrial technique.

Over the past week, the team of engineers in the University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering including Nathan Brown, Dr Louise France (Lecturer in Medical Engineering) and Brian Houston (Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering) have been developing the optimised designs, collaborating with industrial manufacturing partners.

They are in the process of adapting the University’s FabLab facilities – which houses more than twenty 3D printers normally used by engineering students to digitally manufacture models and prototypes – to produce the face shields.

Dr Fiona Walkley, a marketing lecturer at Hull University Business School, is leveraging support for the project at national and regional level.

Dr Walkley said: “Hull University Business School is working to support the NHS and other healthcare organisations by using its links into local and national organisations to get this essential equipment produced. Building on the work of our dedicated engineers, we want to raise awareness to inspire more people to join us in this important project.”

Through strong links with industry, the Business Engagement Office in the Business School has been helping to source supplies of the materials for these face shields.

“As the requests from numerous health and social care organisations come in we have set up cloud-based systems to capture demand for this vital PPE for the incredible NHS staff and social care staff who are working on the frontline.”

The University is keen to make contact with more local businesses who can support this project – with either the supply of PETG materials or 3D printing or laser or water jet cutting equipment.

The University is committed to providing expertise and resources to help in the UK’s fight against the pandemic. While student nurses and medics prepare to join the frontline of the NHS, other University departments such as Biomedical Sciences have already provided sample processing technology to help identify the virus.

The University is also providing online training to former NHS healthcare professionals who will be re-joining the workforce at the peak of the pandemic.

Order face shields

Frontline public services can order face shields from us here.

For more information about this project – please get in touch via business@hull.ac.uk.

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