On 1st April 2020 I began working in collaboration with the Maker Space in the university’s Newton building to assist them with their visor project -providing much needed PPE for our frontline NHS workers at Salford Royal Hospital. This has been a great opportunity to use our prototyping kit to support the brave selfless workers who dedicate their lives to helping others.

The School of Arts and Media’s 3D workshop features a suite of 3D printers, of which four meet the specifications required to produce the NHS visor frames. The guys at the Maker Space provided me with a digital model that I could then load into our rapid prototyping software. The challenge was calibrating these files into commands that our printers could handle efficiently. After several prototypes I was able to create four images for each of the printers that could produce satisfactory results based on speed and quality. Now we were ready to start mass production of the visors.

Now that the printers were creating large batches of visor frames, I had time to look at how I could improve the print environment in the actual printers themselves. I set about designing upgrades to the printer bodies, like a perspex door to the front. This would help retain heat, which is beneficial to the 3D printing process. With this upgrade installed, I then started to think about designing a hood to stop heat escaping from the top of the printer.

The software I used to design this upgrade was SolidWorks. In this software, I drew the 3D printer body and progressed a design for the ‘printer hood’ from that. I could now create laser cut files from this digital model and use our laser cutters to produce the parts to make the prototype printer hood. The open printers are now enclosed, and I could start to look at adjusting the print files to suit the new print environment.

The printers have now produced nearly 600 visor frames and are running around the clock. One of the printers is now using recycled print material from local supplier Filamentive. I have found this challenge to be very humbling but also a great opportunity to really push the boundaries of what our prototyping suite can really do. We have just started a new run of a different style of visor frame which now provides a different set of printing challenges. This is something that I relish, and I am eager to find solutions to these new challenges. Being part of this project gives me great sense of pride in being able to support our NHS and represent our institution through teamwork.

Special thanks to:

The NHS, Salford Maker Space, Paul Mitchel (laser cutting master), Martin Hughes, Huey, Louie, Dewie and Harley (3D printers), Salford University Security, Filmentive.