Kiwi helps shield UK health workers

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JOHN.COSGROVE@nullcluthaleader.co.nz

It takes just two and a half hours to make but it saves lives.
United Kingdom-based former Balclutha man Josh Button is burning the candle at both ends, spending 11 to 12 hours every day working with hot plastic in his school’s laboratory, using 3D modelling equipment to make much› needed face visors for National Health Service workers.

‘‘I saw some articles about 3D-printed PPE (personal protective equipment), and as we have 20 3D printers here at the London Design and Engineering UTC, I thought we could definitely help out. But when we looked into the feasibility of it we saw we had a lack of the raw materials and the supply chain was severely disrupted.’’

Mr Button, a digital technology facilitator at the college, said one of his students later reached out to him with a proposition.

‘‘He’s very passionate about 3D printing, and had started his own charity group, Makers4TheNHS, where he created a supply chain between elastic manufacturers, acetate sheet manufacturers, schools with 3D printers and distribution groups to help people in need of PPE.
‘‘They have already shipped out over 2000›plus visors.
‘‘He reached out to me asking if I could help supply him with visors and I said I was more than happy to.’’

Mr Button left South Otago High School in 2016 to study computer science with a focus of machine learning, data visualisation, and data analysis at the University of East London. He was also one of the founding staff members at the nearby London Design and Engineering UTC.

‘‘The frame process involves taking a digital 3D model and bringing it into the physical world.
Mr Button said the design he was using to produce printed frames and hand-cut shields had already been tested and certified for use in the medical field by the NHS.

‘‘The frames are printed using PLA, a plastic which turns into a semi-liquid state at around 200 degC. It takes about two and a-half hours, and we have 11 machines currently running 24/7.’’

He said they were now trialling a slimmer design which should allow them to increase production by 40%.

‘‘Whilst the frames are printing we hand-cut out the shields using a laser cut acrylic template that will later pop on to the front of the frame.

‘‘When completed, the frames are removed and sanded down to remove sharp bits. We then wipe everything with antibacterial wipes and package it up for delivery to Makers4TheNHS distribution hub.

‘‘To date we have shipped out exactly 524 frames.’’

Mr Button then cycles for one hour up to the North London base of Makers4TheNHS to deliver the packages of frames himself.

‘‘From there they are assembled and sent out in disinfected boxes using masked and gloved couriers who are also delivering food and essential items to hospitals, care homes, and vulnerable individuals.
‘‘I feel proud to be able to utilise the great cutting›edge technology we have here for such an important cause.
‘‘The best part is when I am forwarded voicemails and pictures from frontline health workers and carers who are almost in tears because they have received this piece of plastic I have put together.

He said those ‘‘brave people’’ often felt ‘‘forgotten or overlooked by many above them’’ and so to help out and keep them safe was ‘‘a very good feeling’’.