MTC develops lightweight PPE face visor for NHS staff

The Coventry-based Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) has developed a fast-make lightweight face visor to protect frontline NHS staff during the Covid-19 pandemic, which went from design to production in just five days.

Engineers at the MTC were able to design, prototype, get user approval and start production of the visor in a matter of days, using laser-cutting technology. More than 2,500 visors were delivered to NHS sites. To speed up production further, the MTC teamed up with Staffordshire cutting machine specialists Swift-Cut Automation to use advanced waterjet-cutting technology, allowing thousands more visors to be supplied to the NHS free of charge.

MTC research engineer Harmail Sandhu said the visors were not only protective but were comfortable and light compared to feedback from existing face visors: "We wanted to expand the manufacturing options of the face visor beyond the constraints of laser cutting. We turned to Swift-Cut who produced the face visor on an advanced waterjet machine with excellent results."

Phil Camp, Managing Director of Swift-Cut Automation, added: "We immediately accepted the challenge from the MTC and within a matter of hours were able to turn the idea into a reality. A prototype polypropylene frame was quickly produced on our SwiftJET machine and submitted for approval.

"After an initial supply of 1,000 visors within an extremely aggressive timeframe, we have gone on to produce a further 5,000, thanks to the MTC and our suppliers."

Highly versatile waterjet cutting machines can process a wide range of materials from rubber, foam and gasket materials to metals and ceramics. This enables a combination of accuracy and fast set-up times with fast cutting, without generating heat or changing material properties.

The MTC, founded by the University of Birmingham, Loughborough Unversity, the University of Nottingham and TWI Ltd, aims to provide a competitive environment to bridge the gap between university-based research and the development of innovative manufacturing solutions, in line with the Government's manufacturing strategy.