Thousands of parts for personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospital workers are to be produced at Manchester Metropolitan University’s 3D printing and additive manufacturing hub, PrintCity, over the coming weeks.

Experts have also designed a new device which aims to help prevent the spread of germs and viruses through reduced contact with door handles. The final product designs will be made available online for anyone to use. This is as the world continues its battle against the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic.

Professor Craig Banks, Founder and Academic Lead of PrintCity, said: “We wanted to help support the fight against Covid-19 in the most effective way possible.

“Over the last couple of weeks we have witnessed some fantastic, rapid prototyping from industry, and we knew we too could make our own contributions.

“We have managed to do that in two ways.

“Firstly, by supporting the production of PPE, which we are currently seeing a huge shortage in, and secondly by designing a simple product which aims to help prevent the spread of the virus through touching handles on doors and cupboards.”

Next week, PrintCity will reopen its doors to begin printing headbands for facial visors, which will be sent Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust to help equip and protect frontline workers.

The team are aiming to print around 1,000 headbands per week while the crisis continues.

In the meantime, development and testing is ongoing on a simple and ingenious device, which will allow a door handle to be opened without having to touch it using the hand itself.

Mark Chester, Innovation Development Manager at PrintCity, said: “We have come up with a hands-free design, which will help reduce the spread of viruses and germs.

“It is said that Covid-19 can live on hard surfaces for up to 72 hours, meaning that many handles could already have the virus on them when they are used.

“A hands-free device allows a user to use their arm to open a door or drawer instead of their hand.

“Although the virus will still be transferred to the arm, there is less potential that it will come in contact with the users nose or mouth. However, individuals should still continue to wash their hands as regularly as possible.”

The handles can be applied anywhere, from hospitals to offices, supermarkets, care homes and schools. They have already been tested in a nursery setting.

Mark added: “Using the already available 3D designs from the wider industry as a starting point, we set out to create a simple product, which can be attached to any handle whether it’s on a drawer or door.

“Unlike other prototypes, instead of adopting nuts and bolts, our design uses cable ties to secure the device to the handle, making it easier to attach to a wide range of handle profiles.”


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