Thousands of NHS and care workers better protected as UEA visor production ends

Published by  News Archive

On 27th May 2020

UEA scientists with visors in lab

After seven weeks and hundreds of hours worked by volunteers, the University of East Anglia’s (UEA) production of visors and Ear Comfort Bands (ECBs) has come to an end, with the final assembly totals exceeding 12,000 of each.

The UEA-led project has helped to keep thousands of the region’s key workers protected during the fight against COVID-19, with the voluntary help of over 20 local organisations and individuals. These helpers came together to supply the University with 3D printed parts, raw materials and labour to produce over 12,000 visors and over 12,000 ECBs.

With local NHS supply chains now able to manage the demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline workers, the collaborative project has wound down, with a substantial supply distributed to Norfolk’s three major hospitals: Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), James Paget Hospital (JPH) in Great Yarmouth and Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in King’s Lynn. The PPE has also been provided to a number of pharmacies, community hospitals, hospices and care homes across Norfolk and Suffolk.

The collaboration came about after UEA put a call out to the local tech community via the SyncNorwich network for assistance in providing access to 3D printers and sharing software skills back in March.

Production began at the beginning of April and since then teams of volunteers have helped with producing the visors, with assembly and quality control checks taking place by UEA technicians and academics in laboratories in the University’s New Science Building.

UEA’s Health and Social Care Partners were also influential in linking together the School of Engineering, School of Pharmacy and Research and Innovation Network (RIN) to source and produce equipment and supply resources, develop 3D printing parts and distribute the visors to a number of partner organisations.

Whilst production of the PPE items has finished, thanks to the generosity of the volunteers in the last week of the project, UEA still has a number of ECBs available. Any local health or care organisations, or teams with frontline staff who wear face masks, can request these for free by contacting business@uea.ac.uk (minimum 100 per order).

UEA’s Vice Chancellor, Prof David Richardson expressed his gratitude to all the project partners and individuals involved saying: “Through the generosity of many organisations and a small army of individuals the project has also been able to respond to urgent requests from the community including hospices, care homes and pharmacies.

“This is all down to the tremendous voluntary work of the group of 3D printers, our raw materials suppliers, laser cutters, UEA technicians and Security team.”

Prof Nancy Fontaine, Chief Nurse at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, said: “I am truly humbled by the overwhelming support we have received from local people and would like to thank everyone who was involved in making the visors which are so vital to us. We have felt the love from the community every step of the way as we have tackled the challenges posed by the pandemic.”

Thanks go to all the partners who helped to make this project possible, including: Altair Astro UK; Birds of Dereham; Bosch (Suffolk); CF Tech; Copyshop (Great Yarmouth); DMP 3D; Drone Training Ltd; Greg Rowe Ltd; Haas; Hexatomic; John Mayes Engineering Ltd; Knit Wit; Littlewood Lodge; LSI Architects; Norwich Research Park; Norwich Print Solutions; Norwich University of the Arts; Notre Dame High School; Paper Story; Perdix Design Ltd; Pixel Spark; Redpack; S-Can; SyncNorwich; The Norfolk Truffle Company; Waitrose (Eaton); Yare Valley Technical Services – plus the army of generous individuals who also provided invaluable support.

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