DCU is producing Personal Protection Equipment for frontline medical staff by using 3D printing
Researchers and engineers from the DCU School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering and I-Form, the Science Foundation of Ireland (SFI) Research Centre for Advanced Manufacturing at DCU, have responded to urgent calls for PPE for Ireland’s frontline health care workers. They are using state-of-the-art 3D printing equipment in campus labs to produce goggles and face masks for health staff.
In the past week, the equipment manufactured by DCU has been distributed to the HSE North Dublin, and to care homes in the Kildare and Greater Dublin regions. Plans are in place to distribute more equipment in the weeks ahead, and deliveries are anticipated for the Irish Blood Transfusion Services and St Vincent’s Hospital.
DCU is in the process of significantly ramping up the production of PPE as they receive orders from a number of organisations, with the university looking to meet this demand.
To date at DCU, some 300 face shields have been manufactured and across I-Form, at least 1,000 have been produced over the past week.
Professor Dermot Brabazon, Deputy Director of I-Form, the SFI Research Centre for Advanced Manufacturing at DCU explained:
“This work is co-ordinated via APT ( Advanced Processing Technology Research Centre) and I-Form in DCU, where face shields have been manufactured and goggles have been both designed and produced.
“The excellent 3D printing facilities within the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering and the Nano-Research Facility Building at DCU are being used.
“Using all facilities in DCU, some 20 3D printers are now being used to keep up with the demand. “While production output is increasing, and being ramped up, currently 50 face shields are being produced per day.”
“The goggles are printed in a flexible polyurethane (TPU) material; the front window of the goggles is laser cut from polycarbonate (PC) sheet; and a coating of skin safe silicone is applied to seal the design and ensure comfort during wearing.
The face shield is 3D printed from PLA which a skin safe material also,” added Professor Brabazon.
Across the globe, there is a severe shortage of PPE as manufacturers struggle to keep up with unprecedented demand for the products which are worn by frontline health care workers to protect themselves from infection and/or infecting others. An announcement by the World Health Organisation in March warned that a lack of PPE was putting lives at risk and urged manufacturers to increase production to meet demand.
Before the global COVID-19 crisis, these 3D printers were utilised in a learning environment - now these labs have been transformed into production hubs - practising social distancing measures - meeting rising demand for PPE for Ireland’s healthcare workers.
“The support from postdoctoral, technical, and management personnel at DCU has been rapid and robust in transforming what would typically be teaching and research labs into a production environment to meet the sudden demand for 3D printed PPE,” said Prof Brabazon.
“The scheduling of activities has been designed to keep staff safe and isolated from each other during this activity.”
“As a note to the staff involved, I express gratitude to their great work and dedication, and as a comment to medical staff or other workers that need PPE or parts, we are with you and will support you through this.
“While the demand for some of the types of PPE or equipment parts will likely change in the coming weeks, the great advantages of the 3D printing facilities are evident from even just the last week in the flexibility they provide to be quickly set up to accommodate different designs.”
DCU President, Prof. Brian MacCraith said:
“It’s wonderful to see this fantastic innovation and commitment coming from researchers and technical staff at DCU. It’s indicative, however, of the overall response from the DCU community.
We have made it clear that DCU will do whatever it can to support our frontline Healthcare workers and the HSE in tackling the COVID19 crisis.”