3D printing prototype could boost local PPE supplies

3D printing prototype could boost local PPE supplies

20 April 2020

Face mask shields are being produced as personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic by Silverstone Park business Performance Projects, which has encouraged more people with home 3D printers to start making them.

Performance Projects has made its own geometry modifications to an established face mask shield design – prototypes of which will being trialled by nurses and GPs at local medical practices.

If successful, the engineering consultancy business – which has an F1 background and is more used to working in motorsport and automotive – will begin low volume production of the shields.

“Following feedback on the standard community design, we’re making some tweaks to how it fits the face, whilst also ensuring that it remains comfortable and maintains the physical barrier during use,” explained Performance Projects Director Chris Horton.

“We’re also working on changes to face mask straps that enable the user to fix masks over the nose and mouth without the need to reach behind their head. This is an unusual but key requirement for some of the nursing staff.

“If the local GPs and nurses are happy with the prototypes, and they prove to be robust enough for chemical sterilisation, then we should be able to produce four or five a day – enough to fully stock a small surgery within the week.

“That is undoubtedly low volume in comparison to some other high profile projects out there, but community projects like this could prove significant – they can help to keep more health workers going in the local community and slow the spread at source, which is a critical factor right now.

“Talking with local carers, nurses and GPs who are at the front line, clearly there isn’t a sufficient volume of PPE out there.”

And added Chris: “There a lot of people who 3D print at home for a hobby and they can get involved through community projects such as 3D Crowd.

“We are printing these in PLA (a low-grade filament print material) that is widely used in home printing, low cost and easy to buy online.

“Those with home printers can easily sign up and turn their hand to something like this. Once you set the machine going in the morning, they take about four hours each to produce. Whilst this is a long time per item, the sheer number of printers out there means production volumes can be high.

“If our prototyping is successful then we will open our designs up for others in the community to use. Whilst these are derived from recognised designs, they are all stop-gap measures while the COVID19 pandemic is happening and mass-produced PPE is in short supply.”

Those interested in 3D printing PPE for healthcare workers from home should click on the links below for more details.