Edinburgh based rocket launch company, Skyrora, has teamed up with the National Physical Laboratory and Makerspace Paisley to 3D print face visors for various health services including the NHS at its production facility in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The Edinburgh space firm concluded very soon that it was well positioned to do its bit to help ease the burden on the NHS and became very quickly aware of the potential shortage of available safety equipment. Skyrora dedicated resources to manufacture personal protection equipment, (PPE) and decided not to go it alone because a collaborative effort would yield much faster and higher volume of supplies. Skyrora decided to reach out to the wider community and bring in expertise, more equipment and personnel to make the project happening rapidly. As a result both the National Physical Laboratory and youth charity project Makerspace Paisley joined Skyrora to support its latest mission.
Joining the wider business community’s effort in dealing with the Covid-19 crisis and producing urgently required additional PPE, Skyrora staff are working evenings and weekends to increase the maximum production of 3D printed face visors while still adhering to the government’s social distancing measures.
Together they initially produced 50 face visors to per week, all 3D printed on Skyrora's two Ultimaker S3s and one Ultimaker S5 printers. With the support of the National Physical Laboratory, lending Skyrora two further Ultimaker S3s, the team can now 3D print 70-100 face visors per week.
The Ultimakers work by depositing layers of 3D printed PLA (polylactic acid) plastic based on the 3D model design. The whole process of 3D printing takes around two hours for each band frame and only five minutes to assemble the band frame, clear plastic visor and foam strips into a face visor.
Without the help of Makerspace Paisley, visor production would not have been possible. Makerspace Paisley kindly lent their laser cutting facilities to Skyrora. The laser cutter uses a high-powered carbon dioxide laser to etch the safety markings and logos onto the 100% recyclable PETG (polyethylene terephthalate glycol) plastic visors, before cutting them out for production-quality precision.
Skyrora has received certification for their face visors to the CE EN 166:200 standard, as required by the NHS, and everything is ready for distribution.
Chief executive officer of Skyrora, Volodymyr Levykin said, “The UK is going through a very difficult and painful period. There has been a tremendous increase in PPE demand and the team at Skyrora felt it to step up and help where we can.
“Without the collaboration of NPL and Makerspace Paisley, we would have not got to where we are now. Our collaboration shows how quickly companies can work together and provide vital support to people who need it. And it’s by working together that we yield the best outcomes.”
Andy Morris, NPL North of England Operations Manager said: “NPL have been working with Skyrora, a member of the NPL Manufacturer Measurement Network (MMN), to support their engineers to achieve CE marking for their newly designed Face Shield. NPL has offered technical advice on the design as well as guidance around applicability of relevant standards and material selection. NPL also loaned two 3D printers to increase their own production volumes. NPL is coordinating the efforts of multiple organisations looking to manufacture face shields. This collaborative approach and close working relationship with the Skyrora team is serving to establish conformity to the appropriate quality standards and importantly decreasing the time to market for those looking to support this national challenge. Through the sharing of successful, established designs, having a common manufacturing methodology and assembly process coupled with a common material supply chain it is hoped that these products will be able to maintain their CE mark.”
Darren Gillan, Youth & Programme development manager at Paisley Makerspace said: "Due to the impact of COVID-19, the challenge for Paisley YMCA was to identify emerging needs during this period of lock down that prevents front line youth activity at our Makerspace. The partnership developed with Skyrora to manufacture PPE for the NHS has not only addressed an emerging need but has also developed exciting opportunities for our young people to explore space technologies through Skyrora's rocket launch facilities."
Skyrora have also received recognition from the Scottish Government. The deputy presiding officer, Christine Graham said: “Parliament welcomes the efforts of the Midlothian-based space tech firm, Skyrora, to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak by reallocating a proportion of its staff to manufacture various forms of personal protective equipment, while still adhering to social distancing measures. It is the Parliament's understanding that this includes hand sanitisers and 3D printed face visors, which will be distributed to the NHS in the coming weeks. According to the company it is also looking into what further things it can do to help, including how it could use its 3D printers in this effort. Parliament believes that this demonstrates a commendable attitude of corporate responsibility, and thanks Skyrora and companies undertaking similar efforts for their contributions.”