School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science

Engineers at Queen Mary 3D-print protective equipment for COVID-19 NHS workers

The Queen Mary University of London community, including researchers, engineers, clinicians and support staff, have stepped in to assist the NHS with urgent requirements of personal protective equipment (PPE) to combat the outbreak of COVID-19.

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A nurse wearing QM PPE Equipment at Royal London Hospital A&E. Image provided by Institute of Dentistry - Barts and The London.

PPE protects NHS workers against catching coronavirus through droplet transmission while caring for infected patients. It includes items such as safety visors, gloves and eye protection, among other things. Due to the increased demand during the outbreak of COVID-19, there has been a shortage of PPE available for these workers.

Engineers from the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) and School of Engineering and Material Sciences (SEMS) along with colleagues in Queen Mary’s Blizard Institute and the Institute of Dentistry and Barts Health NHS Trust are 3D printing new visors for front line staff at The Royal London Hospital.

The newly designed single-piece visor can hold acetate sheets to provide full face and neck protection for use during consultations and aerosol-generating procedures. The head bands are re-usable after disinfection with alcohol wipes or when submersed in disinfecting solution, and the acetate and elastic band are disposable. The design has been approved by the Barts Health Infection Control team for use in the Emergency Department, Critical Care Unit and other wards.

The EECS Team includes Professor Kaspar Althoefer (Robotics-ARQ also with SEMS) and Dr Ildar Farkhatdinov (Lecturer in Robotics), Ho Huen Kok (Electronics lab manager) and Joshua Brown (PhD student in Robotics/ARQ). In addition, several students and Alumni have also joined the effort.

Professor Kaspar Althoefer, Head of Centre for Advanced Robotics (ARQ) with EECS and SEMS said: “We are responding to a call from the Royal London Dental Hospital who are in need of visors for their front line staff operating on patients."

"Without visors, procedures cannot be carried out because the risk of infection for medical staff is too high. We are using 3D printers at home and in QMUL labs to manufacture frames for the required visors."

"Using 3D printing allows us to turn designs into actual systems to rapidly prove medical staff with the needed tools to continue with their work in the COVID-19 crisis."

Barts Charity has awarded £25,000 to assist in the production, which would allow the team to create nearly 10,000 visors by using commercial printing facilities. Batch.works, a London based design and printing company, has agreed to print a sample of the design and if it is fit for purpose they will commit to printing 10,000 visors.

The Project co-ordinator Professor Shakeel Shahdad from Queen Mary’s Institute of Dentistry said: “The ingenuity of the combined team has allowed us to start immediate in-house production of 3D printed visors. Our aim is to equip all clinical staff with 3D printed visors and expand out into producing these with faster and higher volumes with injection moulded designs in the coming weeks.”

Professor Shahdad’s team is now in talks with Halma, a FTSE50 company, which has committed to tooling and supplying 10,000 injection moulded visors.