Imperial partners with Trust to make PPE for healthcare workers

5 May 2020

Imperial volunteers are making more than 50,000 disposable visors for Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust hospitals.

Women inspecting visor
by Thomas Angus (photographer), Deborah Evanson

Imperial volunteers are making more than 50,000 disposable visors for Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust hospitals.

An entire floor of Imperial’s Translation & Innovation Hub (I-HUB) in White City has been converted to assemble the visors, which will support Trust staff on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis.

More than 6,500 visors have already been delivered to Charing Cross Hospital. Tens of thousands more will be distributed across Trust hospitals over the coming weeks.

socially distanced workers in manufacturing process

The project is led by Imperial College Advanced Hackspace and the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Healthcare Associated Infections and Antimicrobial Resistance at Imperial, in partnership with the Trust and their Infection Control team. Together, they developed, optimised and evaluated the visors to ensure they were appropriate for use.

Women inspecting visor

Rolls Royce Motor Cars has worked to further support the Trust with visor production, providing kits for the team of Imperial volunteers to assemble the first 7,000 visors.

The visors will be assembled by a small team of College volunteers, with enough space to allow for socially distanced working.

women demonstrating wearing PPE

Rapid support

The project is supported by Imperial’s donor-backed COVID-19 Response Fund, which provides rapid support to projects with the potential to make a major impact in the fight against the novel coronavirus. The project received £5,000 of seed funding from the Fund to establish its production line of visors and to enable development of the initial prototypes.

Man in PPE inspecting manufacturing visor

Rising to the challenge

Professor Nick Jennings, Vice-Provost (Research and Enterprise) said: “This is a remarkable effort which shows the power of institutions coming together at a time of great need. It shows great speed of action and the willingness of volunteers to rally to a common cause. Imperial has committed to doing all we can to help to respond to the pandemic, and I am proud to see our community and our NHS Trust colleagues rise so admirably to this challenge”

Visors in a box ready to be dispatched

Professor Alison Holmes, Director of the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Healthcare Associated Infections and Antimicrobial Resistance at Imperial, as well as Director of Infection Control at the Trust, said: “This project is an outstanding example of collaborative working across Imperial College London and the Trust to increase supplies of critical PPE.”

Dr Bob Klaber, Director of Strategy, Research and Innovation at the Trust, said: ‘The amazing spirit of innovation, volunteering and collaboration between Imperial College and the Trust has produced a very high-quality piece of personal protective equipment at a significant scale and outstanding value. This innovative engineering-led project has certainly provided us with a sustainable local supply chain that we can continue to develop in order to help with our ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic.’

Man sealing boxes ready to be dispatched

The Imperial team was led by Research Postgraduate student Max Naylor Marlow from the Dyson School of Design Engineering, alongside Dr David Miller, Hackspace Fellow.

Head of Hackspace, Graham Hewson said, “The Advanced Hackspace team are well positioned to support this project, enterprising in their efforts to rapidly develop and assemble the early stage prototypes and plan for scaling. I am extremely proud of all the team for their continued collaboration, hard work and dedication to this project.”

Volunteers manufacturing the visors at socially distanced work stations

Broader support

Woman wearing visor

Dr Eleonora D’Elia from the Department of Materials

Other projects across Imperial are also looking to support the NHS through the production of PPE. Dr Eleonora D’Elia from the Department of Materials has been working with a voluntary grassroots organisation called Helpful Engineering UK to use the Department’s currently unused 3D printers and laser cutter to make visors for NHS frontline workers.

The organisation has organised a nationwide network of institutions, including universities and schools, to redeploy their equipment and facilities to make the PPE. Dr D’Elia has so far produced more than 2000 visors for this particular project.

Dr Alex Fergusson, a visiting lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and his team at FAC Technology, have also worked in partnership with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust to develop and evaluate 3D printed and injection moulded visors to increase local supplies.

Visor made by FAC Technology

Visor made by FAC Technology

For Imperial employees interested in volunteering to support this effort visit the COVID-19 Volunteering Opportunities site.

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