School manufactures facemasks for frontline workers

Although student projects are on hold for the time being, the design technology workshop at The Grammar School at Leeds (GSAL) is open for business during the coronavirus outbreak.

The workshop’s 3D printers are working at full stretch as John Bagshaw, the school’s head of design technology, responds to the demand for vital personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep frontline healthcare workers safe.

Recent news reports have highlighted the difficulties faced by hospitals, GPs and other care providers in sourcing PPE for their key workers. At the same time, in schools and colleges around the country there are 3D printers and laser cutters sitting idle.

These machines can be used to make visors from materials that many schools already have in stock for DT projects that can’t now be completed. The basic design uses PETg or ABS filament and elastic to make a headband to which an acetate or PET sheet is attached as a face shield.

With many healthcare professionals among the school’s parents and alumni, the school is already handling all the orders it can fulfil simply through word of mouth. Over 130 visors have been delivered to Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust and GP surgeries across Leeds and beyond in the past week.

John is now planning to increase production to around 100 masks a day, after he sourced a new design that can be made more quickly on the laser cutter. Local firms, Eclipse Colours, Bradford and WSG Systems Interiors, Leeds, also stepped up to help by donating materials.

John said: “The masks go as quickly as I can make them. We are in full production mode with three printers churning out six masks an hour. It’s all hands on deck, with colleagues giving their time to help out in between their remote teaching sessions with students.”

GSAL has also donated over 500 pieces of PPE normally used in science and design technology lessons, to hospitals, health centres and care homes.

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