DCU has begun producing Personal Protection Equipment for frontline medical staff

Róisín Phelan

Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) has been in high demand in Ireland due to the recent coronavirus pandemic.

Researchers and engineers from the DCU School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering and I-Form, the Science Foundation of Ireland (SFI) Research Centre for Advanced Manufacturing at DCU have already produced goggles and facemasks for frontline medical staff.

In the past week, the equipment has been distributed to the HSE North Dublin, and to care homes in the Kildare and Greater Dublin regions.

With orders coming in from various organisations DCU say is “significantly ramping up” to meet the demand.

3D printing equipment in campus laboratories are being used in the production.

According to DCU, “Before the global COVID-19 crisis, these 3D printers were utilised in a learning environment – now these labs have been transformed into production hubs – practising social distancing measures – meeting rising demand for PPE for Ireland’s healthcare workers.”

Deputy Director of I-Form, the SFI Research Centre for Advanced Manufacturing at DCU, Professor Dermot Brabazon said: “Using all facilities in DCU, some 20 3D printers are now being used to keep up with the demand. While production output is increasing, and being ramped up, currently 50 face shields are being produced per day.”

“The goggles are printed in a flexible polyurethane (TPU) material; the front window of the goggles is laser cut from polycarbonate (PC) sheet; and a coating of skin safe silicone is applied to seal the design and ensure comfort during wearing,” said Prof. Brabazon.  

“The scheduling of activities has been designed to keep staff safe and isolated from each other during this activity.”

At the beginning of March, the World Health Organisation warned of a 40 per cent global increase in demand for PPE.

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned of the risk healthcare workers face without the necessary equipment.

“Without secure supply chains, the risk to healthcare workers around the world is real. Industry and governments must act quickly to boost supply, ease export restrictions and put measures in place to stop speculation and hoarding. We can’t stop COVID-19 without protecting health workers first.”

DCU’s production comes alongside the Department of Health’s order of around €200m worth of PPE from China, some of which arrived in Ireland this week.

Minister for Health Simon Harris has said this order is a huge increase in comparison to Ireland’s normal annual PPE budget of €15m, however the equipment is essential.

Róisín Phelan

Image Credit: Alison Clair