USW staff join forces to make protective equipment for key workers

USW staff working to make PPE visors for key workers during coronavirusoutbreak

Staff across USW have been going all out to produce specialist personal protective equipment (PPE) for key workers.

Led by senior lecturer Dr Leshan Uggalla, a team has already made and delivered hundreds of visors to care homes, pharmacies, and police forces across the region, with plans in place to deliver even more.

The visors are being produced on 3D printers on Treforest campus, after the team members were given special permission to use engineering facilities in the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Science.

“A new 3D printer was bought earlier this year for USW to support Rocketry activities, and my colleague Helen Williams saw a video on the manufacturer’s website showing how to make the visors,” Dr Uggalla explained.

“Seeing how it could be done, I spoke with Paul Davies, Head of School of Engineering; and Louise Pennell, Deputy Head School of Engineering, who both agreed we could work on producing the visors and getting them out to the key workers who needed them.”

With the support of Adam Stubbs, Aircraft Maintenance Workshop Technician, who has wide knowledge of 3D printing, the plans progressed, and were developed further thanks to Peter Davey, Print and Design Services Manager.

“We needed a material that was suitable to make the transparent piece of the visor, and thankfully Peter had some stock in the print room that was perfect,” Leshan said.

“Within an hour of asking, one of Peter’s colleagues, Jamie Oldfield, was able to deliver it directly to the engineering department during the complete lockdown of campus premises.”

With design experience and further support on laser cutting from Engineering Workshop Technician Steffan Williams, and Luke Jones, Apprentice Technician in Mechanical Engineering, the team was able to produce a number of prototypes, and then a final product.

Up to 160 visors can now be produced at USW each day, which adds up to 1,120 a week if the volunteers produce them every day.

“We’ve already got hundreds out to key workers across the region, with the help and co-ordination of Steffan, and we have a new volunteer - Senior Technician Jamie Davies – who is looking for other places which might need the equipment, so we can get it to them,” Leshan said. 

“We have been looking to supply as much as possible to places in the local community where it’s needed most. We are part of the local community and want to do what we can to help.”

The feedback has been very positive from those who have received the PPE.

‘‘I have to say the visors are fabulous. I used one myself yesterday for a resident who has just returned from hospital. It was very comfortable, easy to put on but stayed firmly in place during use. It was brilliant in that it did not steam up and was a perfect fit.” said Wendy Ticehurst, Home Manager of Hafod.

Dr Uggalla added that the effort to produce the visors has been backed by staff across USW.

“This has been fully funded by the School of Engineering at the University, and we’ve had support for the project from the highest level at USW,” he said.

“I’d also like to mention, Bruce Hurrell, Head of Administration; Helen Williams, Senior Finance Officer; Christopher Beazer, Assistant Security Manager; and Security and Post Room colleagues, for their help. 

“The great thing has been that there have been no barriers at all. Everybody has seen how important it is for us to use our facilities and expertise to support the effort to fight the virus.

“The team has had one motivation - to do their bit at this time of need - and we’re glad we’ve been able to.”