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University deploys 3D printing capability to help protect frontline staff during Covid-19 crisis

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The University of Plymouth is part of a city-wide consortium providing 3D-printed face shields to frontline staff during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Technical and research staff from the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business and the Faculty of Science and Engineering are using state-of-the-art knowledge and technology to create components for the face shields.

Once assembled, professionally packaged up and complete with instructions, up to 900 of the items will early next week be delivered to staff working across the city, in the hope that they will help lower their risk of infection when attending people who might be affected by the virus. Hundreds more will follow in the coming weeks.

The consortium was put together in the space of a few days, and involves a range of partners including Babcock International, Plymouth Science Park, the Royal Navy and Plymouth College of Art, as well as independent 3D printing enthusiasts from the city’s maker community.

They have worked collectively for around a fortnight – and will be continuing to do so over the Easter weekend – to produce hundreds of the face shields.

To support the city-wide initiative, University technicians and academics in subjects including design, robotics and marine biology are using 3D printing equipment housed in the new Digital Fabrication Laboratory and the Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre, as well as labs within Smeaton Building and at Plymouth Science Park.

Components are also being printed by Babcock’s Devonport Royal Dockyard’s Additive Manufacture Team, and in Plymouth College of Art’s Fab Lab, as well as other private facilities in and around the city. The Royal Navy has a team of people who have this week started 3D printing in a workshop in Devonport Naval Base.

With Babcock coordinating the team effort, the staff at the various sites work on a rota basis, to ensure they observe Government guidelines over social distancing. The open source components are then assembled and packaged in Devonport Royal Dockyard and delivered to frontline staff.
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