Mark Dickin, Additive Manufacturing & Moulding Specialist at Ricoh 3D, took time out from the site’s 24/7 operation to shine a light on Ricoh 3D’s drive to produce hundreds of thousands of face shields as pubs, restaurants, hotels and hairdressers reopen on July 4.
It has been an incredibly busy couple of months at Ricoh 3D in which we have designed, manufactured and started shipping vital face shields to health and care workers, both in the UK and overseas. But, as an open letter published in the British Medical Journal this week has warned, urgent action is still needed to prevent further loss of life as UK lockdown restrictions ease.
When the gravity of COVID-19 became clear and reports started emerging of PPE shortages and existing equipment bruising the faces of NHS staff, Ricoh knew that 3D print technology would have a key role to play in meeting the immediate need.
Our Telford factory is uniquely set up to take a product from concept to prototype to serial production, and that’s exactly what we did here – with the main component 3D-printed and remaining parts sourced and assembled in just 24 hours.
We designed and refined our unique face shield in a very short space of time and, thanks to the strength of our supplier network and cross-functional on-site team, we were ready for mass production in less than three weeks to meet long-term demand.
CE marking a product for sale is standard practice for Ricoh 3D, so we were ready to ensure best practices and compliance. This now means that we can reach more people and businesses through mainstream retail channels. For sales on the European market, all products are required to hold a CE mark and undertake several tests to be certified. These include how efficiently the masks filter out bacteria – with the device also needing to be breathable, splash-resistant and complete a microbial cleanliness test. This was a big deal for us as we wanted our face shields to be comfortable, of course, but they had to be of the required standard to be functional as well.
From there, things have really started to take off. Our face shield has been featured on local, national and international news.
And we even welcomed former England footballer Steve Bull to our site to collect hundreds of face shields for NHS staff across the Black Country as part of his own appeal to keep our frontline heroes safe.
Orders have already been shipped to hospitals in our vicinity, as well as local housing trusts for carers and community workers and the local council for bus drivers and care workers.
We were also proud to ship a number of the face shields to our colleagues in Ricoh France, for them to distribute to their local hospitals. There is a desperate need for PPE in France.
With updated guidance published this week (June 24) on how businesses can safely reopen from July 4, we have the capacity to produce thousands of face shields each week so are primed for action.
And, as further proof we believe in our product, the masks are also being used across the Ricoh Family Group in operations where people cannot work from home.
It’s an uncertain time for the whole world but we’re proud to be playing our part in the efforts to keep the nation safe, particularly those putting their own health on the line to keep the country going.
3D printing, and its potential to create quality products quickly and cost-effectively, has really come into its own. Our message is not to underestimate the power of manufacturing in the UK – hopefully we’ll learn from this and people might well look at the whole industry a little differently from now on.