The people across Wales producing face shields to protect against coronavirus

There have been growing concerns about the shortage of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) needed to protect health and social care workers.

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Tanya Palmer, secretary of Unison Cymru, said her union was being inundated by “scared and anxious workers” concerned by inadequate levels of PPE in hospitals and care homes across Wales.

Many people have responded to the shortages by producing face shields.

Rototherm, a manufacturer of industrial measurement solutions based in Port Talbot has begun the mass production of face shields, with the aim of producing ten thousand a day.

Tarkan Congar, Director of Rototherm, said “We were horrified by the poor levels of personal protective equipment fo healthcare workers, that we felt we had to do something.

“We are incredibly proud of the Rototherm team, who in just five days, designed, developed and brought into production a new face shield to help protect our frontline staff in the fight against Covid-19.

“We have enough capacity to produce 190,000 face shields and we will just keep pumping them out as demand at the moment is far exceeding supply.

“We have received calls for orders from places like America and Latin America wanting to take everything we have, but our focus is on supplying the NHS and care sector here in the UK.”

Staff at the Torch Theatre in Milford Haven, which is closed to the public, have been designing and delivering face shields for volunteers at the Paul Sartori Foundation.

Benjamin Lloyd, Executive Director of the Torch Theatre, said “We are so proud of, though not a bit surprised by, the approach from our team to the current crisis. They have responded to the personal and professional challenges that we are all facing, with kindness, generosity and professionalism and we have been overwhelmed by the support that we have received from our community in return.

“The innovative manufacture and distribution of these face shields, driven by our technical team, is just the latest example of how Torch staff are finding ways to support and inspire our community in these desperate times.

“Our staff are volunteering to make the face shields in their own time. As a theatre first and foremost, we are limited in capacity and we have been overwhelmed to date, but we are doing our best to make the shields within a safe environment to meet these requests wherever possible.”

Richard Blackwell, Product Lead at Tigerbay, a design company in Cardiff, has been 3D printing medical visors at home with the help of various people including his heavily pregnant wife and his parents. He currently has eleven 3D printers.

He said “We want to express our gratitude to basically everyone, and the way that I thought we could do that was set up this operation to create the masks and visors that people need.

“We’ve given these out to a lot of different places; Bridgend area, and we’re going to the Aneurin Bevan [Gwent] area, some in Cardiff, and getting them all out is great.

“There’s a couple of principles that I set out to do from square one with this. One of them is I do not want to make any money whatsoever from this, none. Second principle; they’re free. I’m giving these away for free to NHS and key workers, people like that, to use.

“This wouldn’t all be possible without the massive amount of funding that’s happened. I’d love to continue to offer these for free, increase the amount, and show you where they’re going as well, but we’re probably going to run out in the not too distant future. I can’t see the demand for these sort of things going any time soon…so if you can give anything then please do.

“Finally I’d like to add, when I was eighteen the NHS actually did save my life, they completely save my life and I’d like to say a massive thank you for the NHS and everyone doing such a good job. I really hope with some of the stuff we’re doing this might save some lives of, not just our public, but also members of the NHS.”

There are issues about whether 3D printed face shields can be used by the NHS. This is because there are various types of 3D printer and a range of materials they can print with. Both the printers and the materials vary in price, quality and suitability for different projects. Some materials, for example, will result in a more porous product, which is more difficult to clean.

The templates being shared and modified among the 3D printer community for creating PPE kit don’t have CE marks, the European safety standard. For this reason no maker should be offering them in exchange for cash.

Dr Sam Pashneh-Tala, a bioengineer at the University of Sheffield, said “With a face shield, there’s reasonably low risk – it doesn’t have working parts beyond covering your face.

“For a higher-end application – what kind of performance are you getting? Proper certification and testing is needed. There are people who are pushing for that.”

We reported on David Sims, an engineer from Swansea, in March when he had started 3D printing face shields. He has told our reporter he is now a Director of a non-profit organisation called 3DCrowdUK, who have delivered fifty thousand pieces of PPE to ninety NHS trusts, including flying a plane to Northern Ireland. They plan to also provide face shields to GPs and care homes.

3DCrowdUK is clear on what they are offering, saying “Before you proceed with the requests, please note that face shields are homemade and are non-CE marked. Face shields are single use only. Discard after use. Do not reuse and dispose of after use.”

Pedro Caetano, a member of the Swansea University Lacrosse team, who are now 3D printing face shields, said “[Our] initial supply of 900 Shields for St. John Ambulance Cymru will be delivered early next week, and we will continue to produce face shields for them going forward. We will be under constant production to meet any demands set thereafter for the foreseeable future.

“Our design is currently under approval by the Swansea and Cwm Taf Health Boards, as well as the National Institute of Health (NIH) in America, we are yet to hear from any of these but their reaction to our sample was enthusiastic, so we hope to hear from them soon.”

Stuart Edwards, Presenter and Producer of LARPBook, posted an update on the Printing for NHS Wales Facebook page today saying “A letter has been circulated from the government to NHS Hospitals and A&E advising not to accept 3D printed masks as they have not passed suitability tests, we are at present getting a few designs evaluated for NHS use.

“You can still provide Hospitals if you so wish but they may be rejected.

“Please keep printing the current design for care homes, carers, out of hours GP etc.

“The Mask Relief Straps are still okay to print.”

Paul May, from Cardiff, who set up the Facebook page, said “The masks we are using are fine for [the NHS] it’s just hospital red tape that’s stopping us sending into hospitals which I find disgusting as they have nothing at all in many departments but health and safety of the NHS have put [a] stop to anyone providing any more till proven worthy but we are doing our best to help with that.

“In the meantime might I suggest that people give their local councils a call and point them towards us if they need any for carers or care homes.”

Andrew Walch, a furloughed engineer from Bridgend, who set up the Print Protection Project (PPP), has already been working with Clinical Innovation at Cardiff University and Life Sciences Hub Wales, who have helped get his visor design officially approved.

He said “We have been in contact today with various 3D printers and due to new regulations, ALL PPE must now meet a particular criteria & pass various tests to be used in the NHS & other establishments.

“This means that the government will be providing PPE to frontline staff which is what was always needed, however this will of course start with key NHS workers.

“We are currently in negotiation with an injection moulding company who will be able to produce approved masks, we are then hoping to become a distributor for care homes, smaller hospitals, GP surgeries, home carers etc.

“This also means that there will not be a lack of supply due to being able to produce the masks faster.


“We have a scope of moving forward and still providing vital PPE to frontline staff using the help of your donations.

“We will of course keep you updated as this goes on.

“If you can be patient with us until negotiations are complete we would be forever grateful.”

However, the Innovia Face Visor, produced by Swansea based DTR Medical, should not encounter these problems.

They announced on LinkedIn yesterday “This is one of the first UK manufactured, COVID-19 Personal Protection Equipment for our #HealthcareHeroes with a CE marking. We are incredibly proud of this achievement and our colleagues across the Innovia Medical Group for putting in the extra hours to make this happen

“We have complied with Regulatory Guidelines to help protect our frontline healthcare workers reliably and effectively! This will help make a real difference in the fight against #COVID19.”

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