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University’s design expertise behind production of face shields for health workers

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Design Innovation has been using its design expertise and state-of-the-art facilities to help create face shields to meet demand from medical centres under COVID-19.

Led by Dr Edgar Rodriguez and Faculty of Architecture and Design workshop team leader Ken Howe, the School of Design Innovation has supplied over 700 shields to medical centres both locally and in Northland, working alongside a factory in Lower Hutt, Uniplas.

"We tried to supply first to communities who needed them the most," Dr Rodriguez says.

The School is using their laser cutting facilities to create the shield part of the face shields, while Uniplas uses an injection moulding technique to create the frame for the wearer’s face.

"By using these techniques, we can create shields in the thousands," Dr Rodriguez says. "It is also much faster and more hygienic than 3D printing.

"There are some similar 3D printed shields around, but unfortunately they need to be disposable as it’s unhygienic to reuse them as they would risk spreading the virus."

The design of the shields is a simple plastic frame connected to a transparent plastic sheet. Both components can also be safely disinfected and reused.

Creating and distributing these masks has been a real community effort and a great example of Kiwis pulling together, Dr Rodriguez says. The ability to supply these communities came about from community connections and relationships maintained by University staff, as did the opportunity to start creating face shields in the first place.

"The design was originally created by a team at the University of Auckland in conjunction with medical professionals," Dr Rodriguez says. "The University of Auckland then got in contact with us to help with manufacturing, design changes, and distribution."

As well as working with local factories and utilising community connections, Dr Rodriguez and Ken also worked closely with local suppliers and received help from neighbours, University management, the School administration team, couriers, and family members- everybody doing their bit from within their bubbles to make this possible.

"We had to secure materials for the masks the night before lockdown, and due to strict safety protocols we can't have students help us," Dr Rodriguez says. "We were very grateful to local suppliers like Gordon Harris that worked late with us to pack some of the materials we needed for the shields."

Dr Rodriguez says he believes this project indicates the importance of having this type of equipment available at the school.

"The University of Auckland contacted us to help with this important project because of our existing relationship, but also because of our state-of-the-art facilities for digital manufacturing at the School."

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