Two enterprising members of staff at Blackpool Sixth are putting their technical expertise to fantastic effect to support the NHS in the fight against Coronavirus.
Karl Hardy who works in the college’s Technical Support team and Phil Lawton, a technician supporting the college’s popular engineering course have both turned their homes into production lines in support of front-line NHS staff. They are using 3D printer technology to manufacture fittings for the face masks worn by nurses, doctors and other healthcare staff to protect them from infection with the Coronavirus. The face masks were not designed for use on long shifts and can cause severe discomfort to wearers.
Karl said, “My mum noticed a post on a Facebook group about a young man in Canada who was able to print these devices. Knowing my interests and the fact I had two 3D printers she sent me the post for my review. I noticed there was a link and investigated as to whether I also had the capability and was I able to produce the devices satisfactorily.”
Karl has been producing holders for face masks which fit around the back of the head and prevent sores around the ears as well as improving the overall fit of the masks and thus providing better protection against infection.
Phil saw a call out to schools, colleges and universities early on in the crisis to assist with the problems medical staff were encountering with their protective equipment. He realised that the college’s large 3D printer would be up to the job of creating headbands and strengtheners for full face masks and arranged to collect the printer from the closed college site so he could operate it from home. The college has paid for the materials.
For Karl, the project has been a family affair with his mum contacting hospitals and other health facilities to arrange to supply them with the much needed fittings. As the family network extends well beyond the Fylde Coast, with hospitals in Lincoln and Cheltenham also benefiting from his work. His dad has kept track of the numbers and the finances. The money has come from donations from family and friends to buy the raw materials for the product.
Karl has managed to produce just under 1700 holders to date and 1420 have been distributed. Phil is at an earlier stage in production and encountered some issues with finding organisations who can collect the headbands. However, in the past few days the North West Chamber of Commerce have come on board to sort the distribution to hospitals so he will pick up the pace of production now he knows that the items will be finding their way to the right places.
The importance of what the two staff are doing has been highlighted by some emotional feedback received on Facebook from a healthcare worker who works on a ward dealing with patients with the virus at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, thanking Karl personally for what he is doing. She praised the way the holders help prevent sores and chafing and also protect staff better against possible infection.
“It’s amazing of you to go out of your way and help us NHS staff. Thank you, on behalf of my entire team, and the other wards that will gratefully use these.”
Both Karl and Phil would welcome contact from healthcare staff or organisations who would like the items they are making. Karl can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org and to contact Phil, please use email@example.com and mark your email for attention of Phil Lawton.