3D printing firm creates comfortable face shields to protect workers on the frontline

Ricoh 3D is producing 40,000 face shields per week for NHS workers, designed to improve comfort and offer a reusable solution as they tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

The company is in discussions with medical establishments and NHS Trusts across the UK, and is working to get effective protective equipment to the frontline using the rapid prototyping capabilities of additive manufacturing.

Just 24 hours after receiving the design file, the Ricoh team 3D-printed the face shield and had the remaining components sourced and assembled using their supplier network. Having refined the design aimed to enhance comfort and reduce contamination, the face shield has now been approved for production.

Mark Dickin, additive manufacturing and moulding specialist at Ricoh 3D, said: “Our site is uniquely set up to take a product from concept to prototype to serial production, and that is exactly what we have done here in a very short timeframe.

“This really is a testimony to the strength of our supplier relations and the cross-functional team who made it happen so quickly. Local suppliers for the foam, elastic strapping and visor components have come forward across our production print, design solutions and quality assurance networks.

“We were seeing reports of nurses’ faces being cut and bruised by their existing protective equipment. Our frontline workers are battling enough already, without having to tend to sore and swollen faces at the end of a twelve hour shift.

“We knew our polypropylene material was ideally suited for the job with its flexible, lightweight, watertight and fatigue resistant nature. Given its comparable properties to injection moulding, we had no doubts that this was the right material to support the transition to full moulded production.”

It is estimated in London alone more than 150,000 face shields will be used every day in the battle against Covid-19. Ricoh will upscale to full production utilising a 150-tonne injection moulding machine. 

Jason Pott, lead research nurse for emergency medicine at The Royal London Hospital, added: “In our tests, staff commented on the comfort of Ricoh’s solution over existing equipment. We tested across a range of male and female staff in the emergency department with different head shapes, hairstyles and headscarves – everyone was happy with the fit. Innovations like this help staff in the NHS to remain safe while caring for those in need.”

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