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MDX volunteers make 10,000 visors in a week to protect NHS workers tackling COVID-19

Call to other institutions to fire up their laser cutters: “If anyone has the capability to do it, we’re very happy to help them"

MDX staff have laser-cut more than 10,000 protective visors in a week for NHS staff tackling coronavirus, and offer support to other institutions and makers wanting to join the visor-making drive.

Around ten Faculty of Science & Technology staff members volunteered their time over the Easter weekend and the past few days to cut out, assemble and box up the visors. The visor is an open-source design by Sean Drummond, design engineer of Nottingham firm Kitronik, inspired by another visor design by Canadian artist and entrepreneur Noah Li-Leger. It uses the simplest technology – a headstrap and a plastic shield covering the eyes and face - so they can made very quickly when medical masks are in such short supply globally.

Thanking colleagues “without whom we couldn’t have done it,” technical tutor Nick Weldin said that they’ve had more people offer to help than they could allocate tasks to, and that they’ve limited volunteers to people who can get to campus without using public transport. “We’re doing this on behalf of everyone at Middlesex” he added.

The production process is in three stages. One volunteer sets up a polypropylene sheet on the laser cutter, waits for it to cut out a sheet of headband parts, then takes it off the machine to clean all the smoke off with another person helping.

Another team assembles the headbands, punches holes in PVC sheets for the shield and fits the visors together. A third group puts them in boxes. As a personal touch, volunteers have been leaving a thank you message from everyone at Middlesex in each box. Every two days, the NHS comes by to pick up the visors and takes them directly to Trusts or to the NHS supply chain depot in Enfield.

The first batch of 184 was sent to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital on 3rd April. After this the university stepped up to mass production, taking delivery of 58,000 PVC sheets for the visor shields a week ago of which 50,000 are left. Nick says they will keep making visors as long as there's a demand for them from NHS Trusts.

He is keen to encourage any organisation with the necessary equipment to make visors themselves. MDX may be able to advise academic institutions and corporations on setting up production safely during lockdown. “If anyone has the capability to do it, we’re very happy to help them," Nick says.

“It’s an incredible feeling to see someone organise something that will make a difference” says MDX Graduate Academic Assistant and robotics graduate Joana Miranda, who has been volunteering alongside supporting design engineering students with their learning online. “It’s humbling thinking of healthcare workers. We wear gloves the entire all day and sometimes my hands are tired, but this is a small part of the equipment they have to wear”.

"RNOH would like to extend a huge thanks to @MiddlesexUni for producing visors for our staff to use as part of their essential PPE equipment" Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital Tweeted after their first delivery of visors, with an image of the hospital's Chief Nurse and Deputy CEO Paul Fish wearing one and giving a thumbs-up. "We are so grateful and also really impressed at how fast you guys can make them" added COO and Director of Strategy & Improvement Lucy Davies in a Tweet.

Chris Caldwell, director of Nursing HEE Covid Response, Health Education England said that he was "so pleased to hear about the success with Middlesex producing visors". Professor Carmel Clancy, Head of the School of Health and Education at MDX said: "We are so proud of our MDX colleagues who have been able to respond to the PPE shortage. The fact that we were able to facilitate connections with the NHS is down to the amazing partnership work we have with our clinical colleagues across the patch".

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