University news

Engineers ready to supply local business and organisations with high-quality PPE

Harri Koivisto and face shield volunteers

Dr Mark Puttock-Brown performing quality inspection

Dr Tanay Sharma operating the laser cutter

Michel Sacre assembling face shields

Engineers at the University of Sussex are ready to supply local business and organisations with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) after successfully producing more than 2,000 face shields for campus colleagues.

In April, engineers at the University developed a way to produce large numbers of high-quality face shields using laser cutters.

Three months later and the face shields passed stringent CE certification tests granting the University team a one year Covid-19 certificate permitting the design to be sold commercially and safe for the use by healthcare workers, first responders, and staff at commercial enterprises such as shops, hairdressers, private care homes and dentists.

Not-for-profit ClickShieldUS are able to produce at least 1,000 shields a week to supply local businesses and organisations and already have hundreds of shields ready for purchase.

Project leader Harri Koivisto, Teaching Fellow in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Sussex, said: “It has been an incredibly tough project to run so far, and under such strange circumstances too.

"That said, the experience has been incredibly positive and it has been a pleasure working alongside my colleagues at Sussex to make this happen. It has been a real team effort and, with so many of our staff and students generously volunteering their time to this project. We have even had an automotive engineering undergraduate student, Dimuth Ponnamperuma, contribute to the project remotely from Italy, by designing a logo for our initiative and by doing background research over the summer.”

“Effectively, we have gone from a blank canvas to a useful and a certified product in a matter of months. It’s not just been the engineering and the design work, but also jumping through the bureaucratic steps and understanding the law around PPE, doing a lot of paperwork and sorting out the supply chain and also video production and website creation so that we could explain how to use the shields correctly.”

The shields are lightweight, easy to disinfect, reusable, and designed with a clever click-fit mechanism, which allows them to be flat-packed – so that they can be stored efficiently and assembled quickly whenever needed.

The design is also partially recyclable and the team are able to offer spare visors for the shields in order to significantly extend the lifetime of the product and reduce the environmental footprint.

Through trial and error, the team have reduced the production time for one shield down to 75 seconds allowing for maximum production rates in excess of 500 shields a day with a group of just 10 volunteers if there is sufficient need.

Producing PPE is just one of the ways that the University has been working to help with the national effort to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. University staff have also been helping with national efforts to test for Covid-19 and coordinating coronavirus-related research.

The project has received £28,000 of funding from the UKRI Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF).

Mr Koivisto said: “The majority of the face-shield designs that BSI [British Standards Institution] has received during the Covid-19 crisis have not passed the tests on the first go – but our in-house designs passed unconditionally.

“It’s astounding how many of the face shields out there currently being sold are not certified, and thus have no guarantee as to their effectiveness. The worst kind of PPE is where the user thinks the equipment is protecting them, but in fact it isn’t.

“Our shields are less expensive than any other re-usable Covid-19 face shield on the market. This is thanks to staff and students from the School of Engineering and Informatics kindly volunteering hundreds of hours of their time for the manufacturing efforts, which has meant our labour costs are zero.

“We firmly believe that PPE should be safe and affordable. We are extremely mindful that organizations and businesses are already struggling under very tough financial circumstances because of Covid-19 and we wouldn’t want cost considerations to come between employees being kept safe while carrying out their daily work.”

Organisations and businesses interested in obtaining University of Sussex manufactured face shields should contact clickshield@sussex.ac.uk or visit www.sussex.ac.uk/engineering/clickshield.

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By: Neil Vowles
Last updated: Thursday, 15 October 2020

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