A TECH firm is using 3D printing to make face shields for healthcare workers.

Flite Trak is making the protective equipment at its “innovation hub” in Lee-on-the-Solent and is enlisting other businesses with in-house 3D printing capabilities.

Batches of the plastic shields are being supplied to GP surgeries, care and nursing homes, home care workers and other healthcare organisations.

Although it has the latest 3D printing technology, FliteTrak says it is battling against a massive shortage of elastic to hold shields in place around the head.

Managing director Andrew Barnett said: “When I heard about the shortage of personal protective equipment, I suddenly realised that we could make use of the design and 3D printing capabilities we have here.

“We designed several prototypes and have finalised one which meets the NHS guidelines and can be manufactured reasonably simply and easily.

“The 3D printer makes a headpiece of plastic to which a thin, flexible piece of acetate plastic is fitted.

“It’s about 12cm high in total and designed to rest comfortably on the forehead with the actual visor stood off the face so it is less likely to fog up, easier for the wearer to breathe and won’t impair vision while still offering protection.

“We are using buttonhole elastic to hold it in place around the back of the head but it is in unbelievably short supply, so we have designed them so in the worst case scenario large elastic bands can be used instead.”

Mr Barnett, whose company designs and manufactures remote health monitoring solutions, added: “It’s about getting the PPE out to the people who need it and we are pleased to help.

“We’ve had requests from the voluntary sector, GP surgeries, care homes, nursing homes and domiciliary care workers who go into vulnerable people’s homes.

“PPE is needed everywhere but sometimes these health and community care workers are a long way down the list. Some have said that the face shields are a complete godsend.”

Each plastic headpiece takes between 30 to 45minutes to make. FliteTrak, based at Daedalus Park, can manufacture 200 a day but Mr Barnett is aiming to bolster production by making it a collaborative initiative.

The aim is to concentrate on Hampshire and Dorset first. The project is non-profit making.

Mr Barnett has contacted local firms and ADS Group Limited, the giant trade organisation representing the aerospace, defence, security and space industries in the UK.

He has also been in touch with Fareham MP Suella Braverman and Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage.

He added: “Ideally I want this to be a collaborative project with others which have similar capabilities and so far, have teamed up with another local SME and Top Notch Signs to increase production.

“We are also putting together a ‘Covid box’ which individual packages of PPE equipment, such as aprons, gloves, masks, face shields and sanitisers."