College technician helps create vital face shields for frontline workers
A Coleg y Cymoedd technician has been producing face shields in his own home to support key workers in the battle against Covid-19.
Creative Industries Technician Will Thomas, who is based in the Nantgarw campus, joined an initiative set up by Dimitris Pletsas and Robert Venus of Amman Valley MakersSpace – a rural community facility established by Cwmaman Town Council which provides access to modern technologies and traditional crafts – to create protective equipment for frontline staff using 3D printers.
Using 3D printers from Coleg y Cymoedd’s creative department, Will has helped to make more than 100 reusable face shields, which have been used by hospital staff, care home workers and Coleg y Cymoedd employees.
Established three years ago, the Amman Valley MakersSpace is a creative design and making facility based in Glanaman, which provides local residents with access to state-of-the-art equipment to work on a range of creative projects and activities, from traditional woodcraft to developing computer code for robots. The facility, which also delivers classes and groups to support skills development across South and West Wales, aims to increase community access to Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Mathematics (STEAM).
Following the Covid-19 outbreak, the MakersSpace turned its expertise and manufacturing skills to design and develop face shields for key workers. It became part of the ‘F3D Innovation Frontline 3D Print Farms’ initiative - a scheme that brings together public and private sector organisations as well as community groups to develop personal protective equipment using their own respective 3D printing equipment.
The MakersSpace called out for anyone with a 3D printer to get involved and become part of a wider national 3D printing network to produce the protective visors using an approved design.
Over 40 ‘printing farms’ volunteered their skills and services, with the farms ranging from individuals with at home 3D printers to colleges and entire companies repurposing production from their normal activities to manufacture face shields.
Thanks to the collaboration of print farms across the country, over 11,000 of the face shields have been produced to date. The visors have been distributed to nurses, care home staff, health boards and other key workers across the region as well as to vulnerable people and those self-isolating.
Having lived in the region for 20 years, Will was familiar of the MakersSpace and was desperate to get involved when he saw the initial call out. Will said: “When the Covid-19 outbreak started and the shortage of protective equipment was widely reported, I wanted to do what I could to help. When I heard about the 3D printing initiative, I knew we could use the college’s equipment to make a difference.
“The Amman Valley MakersSpace initiative is fantastic, and I am so proud to have been involved. The shields we have created as a community have gone directly to those that need them, helping to get them protected quickly.”
Created using a 3D printed main head piece combined with off the shelf materials (acetate screens and elastic bands), the face shields are quick, easy and relatively cheap, as well as easy to clean and sanitise. The design, which was developed by members of the Amman Valley MakersSpace, was approved by Clinical engineers from Hywel Dda Health Board for use within medical environments.
Robert Venus, who the runs the Amman Valley scheme, said “The 3D Print Farm initiative has shown the power of creativity and collaboration. It’s amazing to see how many shields have been created so quickly and I am grateful to all the printing farms that have made this possible, including Coleg y Cymoedd.
“This project demonstrates how 3D printing technology, design and innovation can be applied to provide solutions that are urgently needed by frontline medical and care staff during the Covid 19 crisis. This work has helped to ease pressure on supply chains and local authorities, ensuring much needed equipment was available at short notice.
“We have some more exciting projects that we are working on and cannot wait to get started. We are looking forward to the possibility of working with the college on future schemes.”