The University of Southampton

Students put university 3D printers to use producing NHS face shields

Published: 12 May 2020
Project Hydra is producing 4,000 face shields for hospitals and care homes

A team of students and graduates from the University of Southampton are 3D printing thousands of emergency face shields to help the NHS address the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Southampton team are working around the clock with 40 printers based in student houses and a city warehouse production line.

Fourth year MEng Electronic Engineering student Bradley McLaughlin has borrowed four 3D printers from an Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) Project Laboratory as he helps produce and assemble the shields.

Project Hydra has raised over £12,000 through a GoFundMe campaign as volunteers aim to produce 4,000 masks during the global pandemic.

"I want to use my extra time to help keep those working on the frontline safe,” Bradley says. “The project started with a very small team, including my housemate, and we would pull together to have group sessions to prepare the masks.

"I immediately wondered if it would be possible to borrow the ECS printers to up our productions; to which I received a hugely positive response from the department. They even gave us some printing filament, allowing us to get started right away."

Project Hydra has grown to now include close to 40 volunteers on different parts of the production line.

Bradley's support in the quality assurance and assembly teams includes sanding rough imperfections from the 3D-printed headbands, cutting the sheets of clear plastic to size and attaching elastic to the unit.

All shields are sterilised before being packaged in sealed containers and distributed to hospitals, GPs and care workers across England and as far as Wales.

The project is led by Aeronautics and Astronautics student Fergus McKenzie-Wilson, who is also Chief Technology Officer of the drone company Hydra, following a request from a GP in Winchester.

"This is a time in which uncertainty is at an unprecedented level, but we can take comfort in the certainty that we can work together with industry, the health service and the general public to collectively solve the great challenges facing us," he says.

"We are immensely grateful for the equipment supplied by the University of Southampton, and generosity of companies such as Motion Robotics, who have been kind enough to loan us a large supply of 3D printers. Their support has been vital to the campaign's success."

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