The Health Academy at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust recently invested in a 3D printer that has helped enable the supply of PPE alongside the creation and development of research prototypes.
The Ultimaker S5 3D printer was first loaned to The Health Academy just before the pandemic for education purposes, by Create Education; a Chorley-based 3D printing company committed to supporting educators, educational facilities, outreach, and community programs.
But through worldwide collaborations with a network of specialists from a variety of business sectors, technicians at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals were able to adapt its use and identified innovative algorithms for PPE, which they were able to test the efficacy of before rolling out across the Trust.
Using computer-aided designs (CAD); one of the first files technicians were able to successfully print was face visors for staff working in Critical Care.
Julie Humphreys, Critical Care Manager at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, said: “One of our great concerns during the first wave of the pandemic was the possibility of running out of PPE supplies.
“The quick-thinking of our technicians helped to ease these worries and to receive the visors was a great relief to us all.”
As the pandemic progressed, technicians were able to print more designs to help with Infection, Prevention, and Control measures, such as keyring chains for staff ID badges; allowing staff hands-free access when entering and leaving their designated work areas.
Technicians were also able to print Heat and Moisture Exchanger prototypes – breathing filters - to provide proper humidification and protect patients.
Optimal face masks straps were also requested to help with ear pressure when wearing PPE for long periods of time. Using an open-source prototype, technicians were able to print hundreds of straps, which were found to be useful for clinicians who need to wear hearing aids or glasses.
Susan Maxwell, Head of Education Business and Governance, said: “We are committed to using 3D printing and digital technology to support the advancement of education and training here at the Trust. I am very proud of our technology team for immediately recognising that we could use the printer to help when the Trust needed PPE the most, the results are a credit to their skills and ingenuity.”
Michael Mead, Technical & Community Development Manager at CREATE Education, said: "We were delighted to be able to support Lancashire Teaching Hospitals during the height of the pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has truly showcased the potential of Additive Manufacturing, reducing lead times and addressing supply chain gaps and at CREATE Education, we were humbled to see our Community come together to support those in need.”