University of Bradford’s mass production of innovative face shields for health service

Published:  07 July, 2020

When the world went into lockdown, engineers from the University of Bradford began working flat out on a design for face shields in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Engineers from the Faculty of Engineering & Informatics used advanced design and modelling software to come up with a new, cost-effective design. Specialist mould sets from Germany were machined in-house and injection moulding equipment was deep cleaned.

Now their design, which has CE approval, is being mass produced in conjunction with two local companies, ActiveCell Technologies and Teconnex, with one unit made every 30 seconds - the CE mark means they now have access to a wider range of markets for the product.

A new video - available to watch here - explains the process.

Prof Tim Gough, head of mechanical & energy systems said they had already produced tens of thousands and were on the brink of signing a deal to make another 400,000.

“We wanted to get involved with face shield manufacture owing to shortages in NHS and social care settings. We started 3D printing but soon realised we were only going to be able to produce low volumes of maybe 100 per day, so moved to injection moulding and are now producing 2,000 per day. Existing designs were also low quality and expensive so we’re now producing a much better quality product in much higher volumes”

Prof Gough is one of a team of six who are carrying out the work on campus, which also includes professor of precision manufacturing Ben Whiteside, research engineer Michael Hebda, technical services manager David Barker and engineers John Hornby and Glen Thompson.

Prof Whiteside, Polymer MNT research director, said: “The project posed significant challenges, not least because demand was so high for this piece of equipment. We looked at existing designs and then improved them, including key features which would prove useful. We’re very happy with the design. It’s low cost, easy to sterilise and recycle and it offers a few features other visor systems don't have.”

One complaint from people who have to wear masks underneath face shields for prolonged periods of time is chafing caused by elastic straps worn around the ears - the new face shields incorporate nubs to wrap face mask straps around, thus eliminating the problem. A further design has also been produced allowing acetate sheets used in overhead projectors to be attached in case other visors are unavailable.

To date, the university has fulfilled orders for 10,000 and 5,000 units for the NHS and Bradford Council but it is close to signing a deal for a further 400,000 units.

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