Posted Thursday 11 June 2020
Hundreds of face shields to help protect frontline workers during the coronavirus pandemic are being produced by a team of technicians at Kingston University.
The protective face shields are being made using both laser-cutting and 3D-printing equipment in the University's workshops at the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing's Roehampton Vale campus and at Kingston School of Art's Knights Park campus.
Using open source instructions put together by Prusa Printers and Protohaven, the team is assembling more than 300 face shields a week which are being donated to a range of NHS and public-facing organisations across the local area - from GP surgeries to care homes, food banks, schools and charities.
More than 25 organisations have so far received face shields and the University is liaising with Kingston's Borough Resilience Forum to identify further groups in need of the protective equipment.
Having already distributed personal protective equipment (PPE) including gloves, safety glasses and lab coats from the University laboratory stockpile to Kingston Hospital and Kingston Health Centre earlier in the pandemic, the technicians began looking at what else they could do to help, Head of Technical Services in the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing David Utton said.
"We've got a fantastic team of technicians here and we were all keen to find a way to continue doing what we could to support the frontline workers putting themselves at risk for us all every day," he said. "It took a little time to source the materials we needed and there was then some trial and error as we tried different ways of manufacturing the shields. But we've now perfected the process and the team is doing an amazing job, producing more than 300 a week across the two workshops."
The team working alongside Mr Utton includes Sean Wogan, Alex Vine, Dave Haskell, Andy Chaplin and Mayur Jani from the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing, with further support provided by technician Timothy Clarke from Kingston School of Art.
They wear full PPE while in the workshop and the main team are split into two groups of three, working alternate weeks Monday to Thursday on the makeshift production line. Once created and assembled, the shields are bagged in batches of 10 and are rested for up to two weeks before being distributed.
The shields have two main elements - a laser-cut visor that provides protection for the whole face, and a 3D-printed or laser-cut mounting structure, to which an elastic head strap is attached. A semi-rigid clear plastic called PETG is used for the transparent visor part of the shield, which is a Glycol Modified version of Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) and is commonly used to manufacture water bottles.
By combining the two construction techniques the team has been able to speed up the process and has so far produced around 1,300 face shields, many which are already in use across South London. The University's facilities management company, KUSCO, has also been involved in distributing the shields.
"Everyone has really thrown themselves into it and we've had some great feedback from those we've provided face shields for so far. Knowing you are helping make people feel safer going about their vital day-to-day work makes it all worthwhile," Mr Utton added.
One of the organisations who have been using face shields produced by the University is independent charity Age UK Wandsworth. Charlotte Allen, Better at Home lead for Age UK Wandsworth, said her team were using the face shields when going out into the community to fit safety rails, key safes and other equipment in older people's homes, moving furniture for hospital equipment to avoid hospital admission and prepare clients' homes for hospital discharge.
"We were so grateful to receive a batch of the face shields from Kingston University," she said. "It's so important to have protective equipment like this when our staff and volunteers are out working in the community. Wearing the shields helps ensure we minimise the risk of infection, keeping our staff healthy and protecting the older people we are supporting. We'd like to say a huge thank you to all involved."
Find out more about what Kingston University is doing to make a difference during the Covid-19 pandemic.