SFI research centre 3D printing face shields for hospitals and test centres

2 Apr 2020

The 3D-printed face shields. Image: I-Form

As demand for PPE soars globally, the I-Form research centre has revealed plans to 3D print face shields and other equipment.

I-Form, the SFI research centre for advanced manufacturing, is using its 3D printing facilities to produce face shields, as vital personal protective equipment (PPE) is currently being sought by medical staff across the country.

The project began on 27 March at I-Form’s University College Dublin (UCD) base with the production of 300 3D-printed face shields. This came after a direct request for this particular item from Tallaght University Hospital for protecting staff from Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Since the beginning of the initiative, 600 face shields have been donated to medical staff. I-Form said that it is now looking at expanding production to other PPE, such as protective goggles and ventilator-related technology aids.

“Working as a team, we took existing designs and optimised them to produce one part every 17 minutes,” said Dr Andrew Dickson, a postdoctoral researcher at I-Form.

“We are continuing this work and, as of today, we have produced and donated 600 face shields to front-line staff across Dublin.”

Face shields are also being donated to HSE Covid-19 testing centres in the greater Dublin area and hospitals in the city. There are also discussions underway to provide two nursing homes with the equipment.

Heather O'Conner wearing a face shield and white lab coat while operating a 3D printer.

I-Form researcher Dr Heather O’Connor prints – and wears – a face shield. Image: I-Form

‘To meet an immediate need’

Prof Denis Dowling, director of I-Form, said 3D printing is “a highly adaptable technology that can be quickly harnessed to meet an immediate need”.

It comes as the Government announced a new website to help businesses and organisations provide supplies or services in support of the national coronavirus response.

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys, TD, said: “Ever since the scale of the challenge of Covid-19 became clear, businesses and organisations of all sizes, from right across the country, have come forward to offer their critical support to our public services.

“These offers of assistance have made a key contribution to our efforts to combat the spread of Covid-19 and I want to thank those behind each and every offer received.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic