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BT’s Adastral Park ‘blown away’ by support as it sets up visor production line for frontline staff amid coronavirus crisis

PUBLISHED: 10:44 21 April 2020 | UPDATED: 10:57 21 April 2020

Chris and Baz Gordon-Wilson from BT Adastral Park's Emergency Response Team demonstrating the protective visors Picture: BT

Chris and Baz Gordon-Wilson from BT Adastral Park's Emergency Response Team demonstrating the protective visors Picture: BT

BT

Communications giant BT’s Adastral Park is co-ordinating a major drive to create thousands of protective visors for frontline health and social care workers in the East of England during the coronavirus crisis.

BT's Adastral Park is co-ordinating a major effort to create thousands of the protective visors every week  Picture: BTBT's Adastral Park is co-ordinating a major effort to create thousands of the protective visors every week Picture: BT

The company’s research and innovation hub based at Martlesham near Ipswich is working with local schools, universities and 3D printing firms to supply organisations with the vital protective equipment.

Ipswich hospital is among those to benefit from the new visor production line set up at Adastral Park.

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BT Adastral Park research boss Lisa Perkins said the firm after hearing about the difficulties the NHS was facing in securing enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), it had developed a prototype of a widely approved “PRUSA” visor using a 3D printer.

“It started off as a small request enquiring if we had any 3D printers which then grew to us taking on the whole co-ordination of producing these visors across the region,” she explained.

“It’s not just ESNEFT this is limited to either, as we’re also supplying local GP and even care homes who have approached us.”

A prototype of the visor was shown to officials at Ipswich Hospital who were so impressed they asked if production could be ramped up immediately.

“We’ve set up a production line at Adastral Park and delivered our first visors to Ipswich Hospital on April 9. They told us they would be put to use in the intensive care unit immediately and it’s incredible to think it’s already making a difference,” said Ms Perkins.

“We’re working with so many great partners on this project including Stealth Mounts, Farlingaye High School and University of Suffolk, as well as Connectix Cabling Systems, Ipswich Makerspace, Kemtron and Stour Valley School.

“Huge numbers of individuals are also contributing using their personal 3D printers and supplies, and non-manufacturing businesses are also contributing. We’ve only just started but the plan is to soon be producing around 3,000 visors a week.”

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The visors are based on two approved designs and are made of acetate, which means they can be disinfected and potentially re-used.

Ms Perkins said they had been overwhelmed by the generosity of the local community and businesses in donating materials towards the effort.

“I’d like to say a big thank you to those who have responded to our plea to help do this,” she said.

“We’ve been blown away by the amazing response we’ve had. We’ve got an army of people 3D printing the frames, we’ve had large donations of acetate and elastic and people have offered to collect and deliver materials.”

Ipswich Hospital is co-ordinating distribution of the visors throughout NHS trust sites including Aldeburgh, Clacton, Halstead, Harwich and Felixstowe community hospitals and Bluebird Lodge, near Ipswich.

Dr Angela Tillett, chief medical officer at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) – which runs Colchester and Ipswich hospitals – said they were “hugely grateful”.

Ms Perkins said BT had also received requests from other health and social care providers and Suffolk police to supply them with the visors.

“We know the demand is huge and we will help out as much as possible. So many people have stepped up and contributed but we would be delighted if more people could join our cause to help us in this effort.”

BT is asking for donations of elastic and acetate and also appealing to local 3D printing or laser cutting businesses to get in touch if they think they can support. For further information contact computerscience@bt.com

Adastral Park’s Emergency Response Team has also been supporting the East of England Ambulance Service on emergency call outs since the weekend.

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