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A close-up of a face shield

Face shields to protect NHS staff, designed and 3D printed by a Swansea University team, have been awarded the CE safety mark, which means they can now be manufactured at larger scale for hospitals.

Shortages of PPE – personal protective equipment – have been a major problem during the Covid19 pandemic.

Knowing that their expertise could help support the NHS, staff and students in Swansea University’s College of Engineering, supported by ASTUTE 2020 from the Future Manufacturing Research Institute, the Accelerate Healthcare Technology Centre, which are both co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, through the Welsh Government, and the Welsh Centre for Printing and Coating, began researching designs and specifications for 3D printing protective face visors.

After working around the clock, they set-up and manufactured an open-source Prusa design in the College of Engineering, with the addition of neoprene foam and a wide elastic strap for increased comfort. The design was then improved to increase eye coverage and in preparation for mass production.

After being quarantined for 72 hours, the visors were sent out to local hospitals for testing and feedback, which the team used to improve the design further.

Now the visors have obtained the CE mark. CE is an abbreviation of "Conformité Européenne”, which indicates that a product meets mandatory EU regulations for safety.

The CE mark gives the team the green light to produce the masks using 3D printing. In future it is hoped the masks can be mass produced using injection moulding rather than 3D printing, thanks to local industrial partners FSG Tool, Die Ltd and Knight Plastics.

Dr Peter Dorrington, Senior Lecturer in the College of Engineering, who led the project, said:

“These products are going to protect healthcare staff on the front line so it was essential that we developed them to a point where they meet the appropriate standards.

“My wife is an intensive care consultant in the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, and we have many family and friends who work in a range of healthcare roles, putting themselves at risk.

 “I am immensely proud of the incredible hard work and effort everyone has put into this project, working evenings and weekends to make this happen. The team is made up of postgraduate students, undergraduate students, Engineering and Medicine staff, and key industry contacts.

Engineering Doctorate researcher David O’Connor, who also played a leading role, and is based in the Welsh Centre for Printing and Coating and the Future Manufacturing Research Institute at Swansea University, added: 

“The call for a design team to take on the challenge was met with enthusiasm, speed, and professionalism by all involved.  We are looking to help encourage the transfer of manufacturing medical equipment and PPE back to Welsh industry, so that these shortages are less likely in the future.”

Professor Johann Sienz, Operation Director ASTUTE 2020, who supported and had oversight of the project, said:

“It is part of Swansea University’s mission to support the community we work in, and the coronavirus has challenged us to deliver for the people of Swansea and Wales. Swansea University has always had close, collaborative links with our health boards and with industry, and this is precisely the time when those networks come into their own”.

Dr Ceri Lynch, Consultant in Intensive Care at Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board, said:

“These visors are comfortable to wear, give good visibility and feel sturdier and more robust than some other visors that have been supplied. Staff report feeling safe wearing them, appreciate the adjustable headband and have selected these as their visor of choice.”

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