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UJ team uses 3D printers to make face shields for medical staff

A team at the University of Johannesburg, Doornfontein Campus is developing 3D-printed surgical face shields, as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic tightens its grip on nations across the globe. In efforts to help curb the spread of the virus, 10 shields have been distributed thus far to various campus clinics at the university, with another 15 set to be delivered to Netcare911.

The distribution of the shields comes at a time when state suppliers are struggling to secure essential equipment such as ventilators, masks, gloves, respirators and sanitizers from manufacturers due to the high demand locally and internationally. Furthermore, the shields are being distributed for free to health care professionals.

A piece of polythene sheeting is attached to the visor to act as a protective barrier between health care workers and patients. The polythene can either be sanitized between uses or replaced. The dedicated team currently produces at least 10 shields a day, however, they are also working on designs solely involving laser cutting that could increase the rate of production to more than 50 a day.

The dead frames for the face shields are made by 3D printers and the shields are laser-cut from sheets of old and thick transparencies. One of the advantages of these shields is that they are made up of recycled old transparency sheets that would contribute to pollution.

Rudie Strauss, UJ Makerspace Expert notes, “The equipment is in demand right now as we are being forced to come up with improvised solutions to address the lack of traditional equipment and devices bearing in mind that this material that we are using is hard to find. However, the shields are not made to medical standards but they can be printed on demand for use when better alternatives are not available”, concludes Strauss.

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