School of Architecture, Planning & Landscape

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North East universities team up to protect frontline NHS workers

Newcastle, Northumbria and Sunderland universities are working together to design and support production of vital protective equipment for the NHS.

Newcastle and Northumbria have combined their 3D printing expertise to make components for splash guard visors.

More than 2,000 splash guard visor components have already been donated to Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust since Newcastle and Northumbria combined their 3D printing expertise. Between the two institutions, 52 printers previously used across research activity and to support students’ work, are now in use making parts which will be assembled by the NHS and distributed to local hospitals.

At Newcastle, the project began with Nathan Hudson, a technician in the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, who began with eight printers, making 40 headbands daily.  He came up with the idea following discussions with colleagues and started full-time production after working closely with the local NHS who tested the visor headbands he had made.

“I know people who work in the NHS and they said there was a shortage of personal protective equipment,” explains Nathan. “The University has such close links with the NHS, and with our recent virtually graduated Medical Students going frontline, this seemed like an important duty and a good way to help.

“The project has really made it very real the importance of collaboration to progress efficiently and with agility. Not only are there so many people from Newcastle University involved from what appears to be every department and office (without their skills and knowledge we would not be able to focus as much on production) but it has once again united us with Northumbria University for the common good. It is always a pleasure having the time to engage with the technicians of Northumbria and I hope this strengthens our bond and capacity to collaborate further in the future

Excellent and ever-resourceful technicians

Professor Adam Sharr, the Head of School said, "Our recently extended model-making and prototyping workshop in the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape has the latest digital equipment. It's been sitting idle since we started teaching online following the outbreak of Covid-19. Our excellent and ever-resourceful technicians - working with the local NHS Trust - have developed and begun producing a face mask using a mix of 3D printing and vacuum forming. It’s great that we can do this to help keep brave frontline NHS workers safe at this difficult time."

Northumbria University collaboration

At Northumbria, Andrew Bellamy, Engineering and Environment Faculty Business Manager, is coordinating the work of a team of technicians who are printing up to 100 headbands every day on the lab’s 25 3D printers.

“When we became aware of the work being carried out by Newcastle we got involved straight away to maximise the impact of the project. Our team of technicians reacted immediately to produce the first batch of headbands. It’s great to hear that the finished products have been warmly welcomed by clinicians within the NHS as they continue to fight against COVID-19”, says Andrew.

Newcastle University is now also acting as a hub for the collection and distribution of components and in a further effort to ramp up production of the PPE components, staff at the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape also designed a mould of the headband components they are 3D printing. This means local firms can make them with injection moulding. So far, 5,000 have been made using this technique. 

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Hannan Snap Visor 

Newcastle, Northumbria and Sunderland have developed the ‘Hannan snap visor’ which can be produced using die cutting technology rather than laser cutting, which means it can be produced more cost effectively than previous designs.

Thomas Nappey from Newcastle University’s Open Lab, Simon Scott-Harden, Senior Lecturer in Design for Industry at Northumbria University’s School of Design and Roger O’Brien from the  University of Sunderland’s Institute for Automotive and Manufacturing Advanced Practice (AMAP), redesigned and engineered previous Open Sourced visor designs to make it easier to mass produce.

The design has been made freely available through Open Source Design, so that anyone, anywhere, with the relevant facilities can download it and use it to make the full face visor. (www.tinyurl.com/Hannan-visor.)

The blueprint for the visor states it is to be manufactured from standard plastics that can be easily sourced. The parts come flat-packed, and can be sterilised then assembled in one to two minutes. The headstrap is fully adjustable and gives the user the ability to wear full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during use.

Named in honour of Katherine Hannan, a nurse who went out of her way to be at the very front lines of caring for the sick during the Spanish Flu pandemic at the beginning of the last century, the Hannan visor is a low -cost full face visor designed for single sessional use.

The universities have worked with Cramlington-based printing, packaging and direct mail company, Potts Print, and Die Cut Finish in Leeds, to produce visors from the design. It is estimated that up to 2,000 visors an hour could be made using the new design.

The visors will be distributed to local NHS Trusts. Tom Nappey, Research Associate at Open Lab, who led the design of the Hannan visor, said: "We wanted to make sure this vital protective equipment could be produced by anyone, anywhere in the world, so we have worked hard to open source and release this to the public. Die-cutting allows the Hannan Visor to be manufactured at speed and volume and can hopefully support the shortages of PPE both in the UK and internationally.”

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Nathan Hudson with some of the headbands

published on: 1 May 2020