Advanced Manufacturing

University of Nottingham use additive manufacturing and laser cutting technology to produce PPE for NHS

Thursday 30 April 2020, 10:18 AM

5 Minute Read

Engineers at the University of Nottingham have designed a face shield with CE approval that they are 3-D printing at scale for healthcare workers to use in the fight against Covid-19. Using the latest HP Multi-Jet Fusion 3-D printing technology available from Coalville-based Matsuura Machinery (www.matsuura.co.uk) and materials at the University’s Centre for Additive Manufacturing, and working with external partners, the team will deliver 5,000 of the face shields to Nottingham’s NHS and community healthcare workers.

Building on an open-source design of headband originally developed by HP, the team in the Faculty of Engineering made modifications to ensure the face shield could pass a regulatory test by BSI, the UK’s national standards body, to meet its essential health and safety requirements which ensures the highest level of protection is provided for use in both hospital and community environments. The face shields are supplied in packs to the NHS, which includes five replacement visors for each visor and instructions for use.

The team have made the design and its accompanying documents ‘open-source’ to enable other manufacturers to produce the face shields – however, manufacturers will need to submit their product for testing to the BSI to obtain their own CE certification.

Professor Richard Hague, director of the Centre for Additive Manufacturing, said: “Our primary goal was to ensure that we delivered a PPE (personal protection equipment) solution that was safe and certified so that healthcare workers can have confidence in the equipment they are using.”

He continued: “Using the flexibility of 3-D printing and laser cutting technology, we have been able to arrive at a design, get it tested and approved, and then manufactured and delivered in a very quick time-frame.

“We have also had incredible support from our collaborators in getting these face shields to the NHS – the teamwork and willingness of people to help has been truly heart-warming and we are all extremely proud to be able to contribute to the nation’s fight against the coronavirus.”

Professor Donal McNally, head of the Bio-engineering Research Group in the Faculty of Engineering, said: “Having a PPE solution that meets national and European Union safety standards is critical for deployment within the NHS. It has been a truly outstanding achievement to go from nothing to thousands of face shield for use by local doctors and hospitals in less than a month. This would not have been possible without the extraordinary efforts of local manufacturing partners and BSI.”

Dr James Hopkinson, Local GP and Joint Clinical Chair of NHS Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We are extremely grateful to the University of Nottingham for developing and supplying the visors which will make a real difference to thousands of healthcare staff working on the frontline of the coronavirus outbreak.

Packs of the face shields have already been delivered to local GP practices, and we have plans in place to share them with a range of other keyworkers such as people who care for others at home. I think this is a really positive example of talented professionals working across normal boundaries in order to support our local communities in what is an unprecedented and very challenging time.

Peter Harris, Matsuura Machinery UK additive manufacturing manager, said: We are immensely proud to use our additive manufacturing to support the University of Nottingham in the production of its face shield. The safety of NHS and care workers is paramount and the university has shown that it is possible to manufacture PPE at speed with the relevant safety certification. This is a stand-out project which is setting an example for the rest of industry.”

Design modifications were made by the team to conform to the BSI’s PPE regulations in order to obtain CE marking; this involved making the wrap-around visor element wider, as well as other alterations to improve comfort for users. The HP design was chosen by the Nottingham engineering team as it incorporates a cover at the top of the face shield which prevents fluid from entering the eyes from above – deemed critical by healthcare professionals.

The face shield comprises a 3-D printed headband, a laser-cut PET visor (with anti-fog coating) and is kept in place with a laser-cut adjustable strap. As well as using their own EOS laser sintering equipment, the University of Nottingham’s engineering team have been heavily supported by Matsuura UK to produce the 3-D printed element, using the HP MultiJet Fusion process. Meanwhile, the visor element has been made with the help of local firm, Prime Group, and Nottingham Trent University are now ramping up for production of the laser-cut strap.

Pictures courtesy of the University of Nottingham.

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