Using 3D printing for protective equipment

3D printers providing desperately needed protective equipment for health workers

Thu, 09 Apr 2020 13:06:00 BST
3D printed headbands ready to come off the printer.
3D printed headbands ready to come off the printer.

Desperately needed protective equipment is making its way to the NHS thanks to Glasgow Caledonian University’s 3D-printing operation.

Doctors and nurses on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic are in urgent need of face shields, protecting them from infection while they're treating patients suffering from the highly-contagious COVID-19. The University has also donated a range of other protective equipment including gloves and disposable aprons. 

GCU’s portable 3D printers are producing as many as 12 of the plastic headbands needed for these shields per day. The bands, which take around seven hours to print in batches of four, are then sent to 3DCrowd, the organisation which is coordinating the UK-wide assembly and delivery of face shields.

Thanks to a cross-university effort, the headbands are able to be made at the homes of two GCU staff members and the first 20 have already been sent for assembly.

The University’s 3D printers are usually used to support student projects, such as the rapid prototyping of coursework designs. The national call for 3D printing to help key staff deal with the coronavirus pandemic has coincided with planned investment in this area as GCU looks to support the current revolutionary change to manufacturing.

Professor Scott McMeekin, Vice-Dean of GCU’s School for Computing, Engineering and Built Environment, said: “We are actually looking to bring forward planned investment in additional 3D printers, which will expand our capacity and ability to respond to this call over the next couple of weeks. By working with 3DCrowd, we are ensuring that the bands we are providing are used in a safe and appropriate environment, and that will free up items which already conform with health, safety, and environmental protection standards for use in intensive care.

“The headset is a design that has been shared across the world and what we are doing is part of the global response.”

In addition, the University has donated a range of protective equipment including 6,700 nitrile gloves; 600 non-sterile gloves; 1,400 disposable aprons (all for health and social care in North Lanarkshire); and 32 pairs of new safety glasses (for Glasgow Royal Infirmary).  Also, over 500 third-year student nurses from GCU started paid work on the front line with NHS this week to support the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.