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Cottage face mask industry to support NHS

A staff member at Shrewsbury Colleges Group has turned his conservatory into a cottage industry using 3D printing equipment to create much-needed face masks for NHS workers.

Andy Lee, director of employer engagement and curriculum leader for engineering at SCG, received a call from the company which supplied the college with its 3D printing software.

Solid Solutions (based in Warwickshire) has turned its operations to ‘printing’ plastic face shields and supplied the college with the design to join in with the crusade and create them.

Mr Lee quickly went to the college to pick up the 3D printing machinery and plastics needed to make the face shields and returned to his own home near Shrewsbury to start production.

The CAD (computer-aided design) 3D printer follows the software for the plastic component parts needed to create the facemasks.

Mr Lee will post the parts onto Solid Solutions and they will assemble the facemasks, attaching headbands and thoroughly sterilising them before shipping on to health workers, hospitals and local support groups.

“The initial call came from one of their customers – Prusa, which creates face shields,” said Mr Lee. “These are unprecedented times and it’s necessary for everyone to help wherever they can. Here at the college we have both the technology and the materials to be able to help and are creating these items for the NHS for free.

“While college is physically closed to staff and students following Government guidelines, the equipment is not in use and is small enough for me to be able to safely use in my own home. It may not be able to be used by students right now, but it certainly can be used to answer the call for this essential equipment to help key workers and frontline staff in the NHS.

“I hope to be able to make 20-25 parts a day. I will continue until we run out of materials to make them. It’s incredible that so many small British manufacturers are turning their operations to whatever they can do to help those on the frontline, fighting this horrendous situation. It’s the least we can do,” he added.

The engineering department has seen around £1m in investment over the last few years to install the latest, cutting-edge and in some cases, world-first equipment. This was largely thanks to £500k in funding from the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), via its Growth deal with Government to develop one of three advanced manufacturing training hubs in the region.

The college added a further £250k investment and with gifts from several companies, including Status Metrology, who put £100k towards metrology equipment and software for the college.

Pictured: Andy Lee, director of employer engagement and curriculum leader for engineering at SCG, who is creating parts for face masks for the NHS from his home near Shrewsbury


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