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Sonovision uses in-house 3D printing expert to produce face masks for NHS

Grant Mackenzine, Business Development Manager, at Sonovision has used his experience of 3D printing to develop a design to produce face masks for the NHS – and found support both locally and internationally from within the group.

He writes: “Before joining Sonovision, a leading technical documentation and training content provider, as a business development manager, I worked for five years at CEL-UK, the UK’s only desktop 3D printer manufacturer based in North Somerset.

“As the worldwide shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) became apparent in mid-March – including, most notably, a shortage of masks and general face protection for front-line healthcare workers – I began seeing activity in 3D printing groups on Facebook from amateur 3D printing enthusiasts around the world sharing their own designs for various equipment.

“With some expertise in the area of 3D printing, I analysed and improved the most popular face shield design found online so it would print faster and better quality on any desktop 3D printer, making it more comfortable for medics to wear for extended periods. Armed a couple of 3D printers and a few items purchased on Amazon necessary for assembly, I started producing this new face shield design at a rate of 10 per day.

“I noted on various Facebook groups that many 3D printer users were having trouble contacting hospitals to donate their face shields. Fortunately, I was able to reach out to an anesthetist friend, Dr Charlotte Earnshaw, working for the Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. After confirming that my face shields were safe to use – infection control insisted on replacing my own fabric elastic straps with rubber tourniquets, which are much easier to keep clean – Charlotte gratefully accepted my donations.

“I mentioned the 3D printing project in conversation with Sonovision UK’s managing director, Martin Barrett, and he advised me to email our colleagues in Sonovision Spain as they had access to very impressive industrial 3D printing capabilities for prototyping various aircraft ground support equipment. The email chain exploded and I was overwhelmed by messages of support from many of our 1,545 colleagues around the world, who offered to help spread the message via social media, sharing the 3D model I’d designed accompanied by their own localised instructions for assembly of the face shield based on the YouTube video of my own:

“Sonovision Group has been very supportive in that they’ve not only allowed me to work on this project in my working hours, but they’ve sponsored all employees engaged with the activity with 3D printer material purchases and maintenance costs.

“Martin Barrett, Sonovision UK’s Managing Director, said: “The Sonovision Group are proud to be supporting Grant and other Sonovision employees around the world in the production of re-useable face shields using desktop 3D printers. We are all in this together and Grant’s efforts will bring much needed PPE to the local NHS foundations in their fight against COVID-19.”

“With Sonovision’s full support, I’ve donated over 150 face shields to local hospitals and care homes. We’d like to share the YouTube video with as many people as possible so anyone with a 3D printer knows where they can download a face shield design that’s been approved for use in the NHS and see how easy they are to assemble.”

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