University produces face masks for frontline health workers


Scores of protective shields created on Merchiston laser cutter

Date posted

8 April 2020

13:38

Edinburgh Napier is rushing out scores of specially-designed visors to protect health workers on the Covid-19 frontline.

Colin Malcolm in mask

Workshop technician Colin Malcolm began churning out the face shields using a laser cutter at the Merchiston campus just hours after hearing about nurses trying to make their own from cotton before going on shift.

The masks – strips of polypropylene sheet plastic fastened to a clear acetate visor– are now being delivered to nurses and care workers who run the risk of infection every time they turn up for work.

The quick turnaround production line was set up on Monday after Ruth Cochrane, Enterprise Lead for the School of Arts and Creative Industries, heard from a relative who works as a community nurse in Ayrshire that she had been trying to make her own surgical mask from fabric.

Ruth also saw a social media post about design technology staff at Edinburgh Academy manufacturing face shields to donate to the NHS, and began discussions with Colin about how the University could modify the school’s design to produce a protective mask on our own workshop equipment.

Two large sheets of plastic, a laser cutter and a rivet gun were enough to inspire Colin’s own version of the design.

Close-up of visors made at Merchiston for health workers

After getting the go-ahead from University managers to be on the premises during the lockdown period, Colin made 20 of the protective masks during an initial session on Monday and hopes to have produced more than 100 by the weekend.

Ruth said: “The design is rudimentary and the masks are reasonably disposable but they will work as a stop-gap measure until official supply lines get going and I don’t think there will be a shortage of people to deliver them to.

“I have given a batch to a community nursing team, and the efforts of Edinburgh Academy have led to requests from nurses, care homes and hospices.

“We are in a situation where nurses are trying to make surgical masks in their own home, so we can certainly use our skills to create a better solution. Even if it only made one nurse safer at work for one day then it would have been worth having a go.”

Colin said: “At a time of national crisis, many people are going the extra mile to make life a little bit more comfortable for others, so we are pleased to be able to use our skills and resources to bring a measure of protection to those who are working so hard in healthcare settings.”

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