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Medical-quality protective facial shields designed and produced for use in the COVID-19 frontline

Publication Date: 
Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The CSIR printed and manufactured medical-quality protective facial shields for use by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in deployments related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Manufactured from materials strictly specified as suitable for medical use, the facial shields are not similar to commercially available equivalents.

Contact Person

Sudesh Budram

sbudram@csir.co.za

The CSIR printed and manufactured medical-quality protective facial shields for use by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in deployments related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Manufactured from materials strictly specified as suitable for medical use, the facial shields are not similar to commercially available equivalents.

The product was required for use as personal protective equipment (PPE) by operational and support staff of the Department of Defence during the initiation of the COVID-19 regulation. Frontline workers in the health industry, in social welfare and rehabilitation support services in communities will also benefit from this development, and, over time, so will other industries that require specialised PPE due to direct interaction with others – such as at factories, hospitality services and banking services.

The initial concept was based on an open-source design and later re-worked to be appropriate for mass production.

CSIR technicians explored various options before arriving at a workable option. 3D polymer prototyping was done using bio-compatible material, and production capabilities, such as water-jet cutting, laser cutting technology and injection moulding, were tested using various laboratories at the CSIR, as well as those of private sector partners in the manufacturing industry.

Refinements performed on the initial design included adjustments to the head piece for a more comfortable fit and lighter feel, adjusting visor connections to make it easier to connect to the head piece and a more durable elastic fastener adopted from a moulding supplier.

The first batch of 100 printed facial shields was manufactured using water-jet cutting and delivered to the Department of Defence.  

The project was one of the first to be undertaken at a newly established Advanced Design and Manufacturing Innovation Centre at the CSIR’s Pretoria campus, which is equipped with additive manufacturing technology in polymer and powder, 3D-scanning infrastructure and which is home to an advanced design team focusing on niche applications. 

The centre forms part of the Technology for Special Operations capability at the CSIR – a group most often used for quick-reaction tasks to service urgent operational needs of the SANDF. 

Temporary production, packaging and distribution facilities were established at the centre for the Covid-19 face shield project.

Plans are afoot to identify laser-cutting and injection moulding manufacturers to increase the volume of manufacturing and decrease unit cost. The CSIR will also be involving suppliers and other service providers, as well as small, medium and micro enterprise partners in the project. This supports the CSIR’s focus on industrialisation and forming partnerships that support economic transformation, while addressing matters of national importance.

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