Newcastle designing and producing PPE for NHS

Two types of protective visor are being developed by the University to alleviate PPE shortages.

Grace Dean
7th May 2020
Newcastle University is collaborating with Northumbria and Sunderland Universities to both design and produce protective equipment for the NHS to counter the current shortage. These include a visor which can be mass-produced and 3D-printed splash guard visors.
The Hannan snap visor
Image: Newcastle University

Hannan snap visor

The ‘Hannan snap visor’ is a low-cost fast-production full-face visor for single sessional use by healthcare professionals. Developed by the three North East universities, the visor is produced using die cutting technology rather than laser cutting, allowing more cost-effective mass-production of up to 2000 visors an hour. The visor is hoped to alleviate the shortages of PPE both in the UK and internationally.

Further attributes of the visor that ensure both its production and use are as efficient include that it is to be manufactured from easily-sourced standard plastics, it can be sterilised then assembled in under two minutes, and the adjustable headstrap means the user can wear full PPE during use. Such designs normally take years to come to life, but the visor was designed, developed, tested and taken into production within just days.

The visors will be distributed to local NHS Trusts, but the impacts of this innovation will not only be felt in the North East. To enable global access to this equipment in the fight against COVID-19, the design has been made freely available through Open Source Design, so that anyone, anywhere in the world, with the relevant facilities can manufacture the full face visor. 

The visor is named in honour of nurse Katherine Hannan, who answered a Red Cross call in 1917 to volunteer as a US Army field nurse during WWI and went on to become Chief Nurse of the Evacuation Hospital in Vladivostok, Siberia during the Spanish Flu pandemic.

3D-printed visors

Meanwhile, over 2000 splash guard visor components have been donated to Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust as part of a 3D printing collaboration between Newcastle and Northumbria Universities. A total of 52 3D-printers previously used by students and researchers are currently producing parts which will be assembled by the NHS and distributed to local hospitals. These have been warmly received by clinicians on the frontline in the fight against COVID-19.

School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape technician Nathan Hudson began the project at Newcastle. Starting with eight printers, he began full-time production after consultation with the NHS and initially produced 40 headbands each day.

Describing his motivations for the project, Nathan explained: “I know people who work in the NHS and they said there was a shortage of personal protective equipment. The University has such close links with the NHS, and with our recent virtually graduated Medical Students going frontline, this seemed like an important duty and a good way to help. “

Newcastle was soon joined by a team of technicians at Northumbria, who are printing up to 100 headbands a day across 25 3D-printers.

Alongside printing the headbands, staff at the School have also developed a mould of it, meaning that local firms can make them with injection moulding. To date this has led to the production of a further 5000 headbands.

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AUTHOR: Grace Dean
Editor-in-Chief of the Courier 2019/20, News Editor 2018/19, writer since 2016 and German & Business graduate. I've written for all of our sections, but particularly enjoy writing breaking news and data-based investigative pieces. Best known in the office for making tea and blasting out James Blunt. Twitter: @graceldean

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