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Volunteers create more than 20,000 face shields for NHS staff

Image credit: Jane Barlow/PA

A group of volunteers in Scotland have produced more than 20,000 face shields for health workers at the forefront of the coronavirus pandemic.

As part of an initiative started by engineering enthusiasts, the Shield Force project in Edinburgh has been designing and making personal protective equipment (PPE) to donate to hospitals during the coronavirus crisis. What started with a handful of product design professionals using their 3D printers to help fight Covid-19 has now led to a pop-up factory with more than 200 people lending a helping hand.

Based at Summerhall, the project has raised more than £33,000 to help produce the kit, with help from University of Edinburgh students, academics and other volunteers.

“We thought about what we could realistically do – ventilators were too complex to produce,” said Costa Talalaev, director of prototyping company Maker-Bee. Because of this, the volunteers decided to make face shields and Talalaev was able to repurpose some of the company’s 3D printers to produce them.

He also expressed how interest in the project grew quickly: “In the first week we had about five people, then we went to 15 people, two weeks later we had 45 people or so, with 15 people essentially working full time. Now we have about 200 contributors overall and we’re looking into making new things.”

More than 1,000 face shields are now being produced each day and the total number of deliveries has passed 22,000. Designs for the face shields were refined over time as Shield Force received feedback from medics.

“One of the most important things for the face shields is that they have to be light. Doctors at the time had reusable face shields that were very heavy-duty,” Talalaev said. “They were so heavy – they said they much preferred the lighter design that we produced.”

The team plans to create other items of PPE, including a gown for medics to use. Talalaev has designed a hook which can be used for opening doors, connected to a bottle of disinfectant so it can be cleaned easily. They said that their products will soon be distributed to people outside the health service who deal with large numbers of people, such as shop workers.

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