Academic researchers at Queen’s University Belfast are pursuing two parallel technologies to help meet the demand for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the fight against the coronavirus. Dr Eneko Larrañeta, Dr Juan Dominguez-Robles and Dr Dimitrios Lamprou from the School of Pharmacy have designed protective shield masks that can be produced using a 3D printer.
The experts have modified designs developed by a group of Spanish engineers, in order to help meet the demands of the healthcare staff across the Belfast Trust in supporting patients with COVID-19.
The 3D printer is normally used to manufacture a range of drug delivery systems and medical devices including catheters, microneedles and tablets.
‘Everyone is thinking how they can help in this crisis situation,’ said Dr Dimitrios Lamprou. ‘I’ve worked with 3D printers to produce a number of pharmaceutical devices to help patients, so together with my colleagues we decided to work on the prototype already developed in Spain to produce a mask that would work for healthcare staff here.
‘We have already produced over twenty masks this week, which we are delivering to the Belfast Trust. The masks can be produced relatively low-cost and we are providing these as a donation to the NHS in these crucial times.’
The team plan to continue producing the face shields, and ask that others with 3D printers do the same in order to increase supplies.
Professor Brian Falzon, from the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering is also working to meet the demand for PPE through pursuing high volume production of face shields using laser cutting technology of polymer sheeting.
‘Simplicity is at the heart of these designs for ease of manufacture and assembly,’ Prof Falzon said. ‘We now have a few prototypes ready for field testing. We believe that we have the capacity to produce these at a rate of between 100 and 200 per day.’