A team of Lancaster University engineers and technicians are making vital parts to help local hospitals during the coronavirus epidemic.
Using their technical knowledge and specialist equipment, such as additive manufacturing, casting and injection moulding, the team have been ramping up production to make thousands of curtain hooks and hundreds of headbands for protective face visors for use within local NHS Trusts.
By using injection moulding techniques, to inject the plastic material into a mould, they have been able to significantly scale up their production volumes and are currently producing around 1,600 curtain hooks a day. The team designed the mould to a specification similar to existing hooks used by the NHS and produced it using a CNC milling machine.
Additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing) has been used to create master patterns for silicon moulds which are then used to cast the headbands for protective face visors. This has increased production from a few per day to many tens per day.
Dr Allan Rennie, Senior Lecturer in Engineering, said: “When the local hospital trusts told us they were struggling to find specific items, such as curtain hooks and visors, we were able to assess which facilities were available to us in the Department that would be best deployed to help meet that demand.
“Curtain hooks might not seem important, but after each coronavirus patient is treated in a cubical the curtains are usually disposed of safely and so there is the potential for hospitals to use up a lot of curtain hooks during the pandemic – there is no ready supply of these items in the current supply chain.
“By using techniques such as injection moulding and casting, the on-campus team has been able to increase production to deliver thousands of hooks and hundreds of visors to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary.”
The engineering team working on designing, producing and managing supply of the parts and materials includes (on-campus) Tom Abram, Nick Renninson, Sam Walsh, Andy Baker and (off-campus) Allan Rennie.
Thanks are offered to the Lancaster University Branch of UNITE who have kindly donated £600 towards replenishing the materials used in supporting the production of PPE by the Engineering Department.