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Construction machinery manufacturers turn their hands to PPE

16 Apr 20 Manufacturers of construction machinery are switching their resources to the production of personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospitals tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

JCB employees Joe Mumby (left) and Joe Bagley with visors made at JCB World HQ in Rocester
JCB employees Joe Mumby (left) and Joe Bagley with visors made at JCB World HQ in Rocester

The shortage of disposable PPE in hospitals has been well reported as the scale of the crisis has risen. Many construction firms across the country have donated their surplus PPE to their local hospitals. Employees at the big construction machinery manufacturers are volunteering their time to play their part too.

We have already reported that JCB is making casings for Dyson ventilators at its cab factory in Uttoxeter. Now it is producing PPE at is World HQ in Rocester.

Inspired by a colleague, principal electronics engineer James Morley, who has converted the garage at his Derbyshire home to produce vital supplies, JCB has re-opened its Innovation Centre at the World HQ so that tooling and moulding engineers Joe Mumby, 22, and Joe Bagley, 25, of Ashby de-la-Zouch can have free use of the company’s 3D printers to help produce medical grade visors for NHS staff. The World HQ and JCB’s other UK manufacturing plants fell silent last month as a result of the disruption caused by coronavirus and most employees furloughed.

James Morley, who has his own 3D printer, has set up a mini production line in his garage
James Morley, who has his own 3D printer, has set up a mini production line in his garage

Joe Mumby said: “Helping with the production of visors is the least I could do as this is a very testing time for everyone, including my own family. It’s  fantastic that JCB has given us the opportunity to give something back to those who are the front line of the virus in what must be a very scary time for them.”

So far, the volunteer production line set up at JCB has produced 50 visors for distribution to surgeries in the Rocester and Uttoxeter area with the help of material donated by the JCB Academy.

With the visor material now exhausted, Joe and Joe are concentrating their efforts on producing headbands required for the visors before despatching them to a Warwickshire company for final assembly.

Meanwhile James Morley, 43, who was the original inspiration for the project, has transformed his rapid prototyping machine in the garage of his home in Belper, near Derby from making toys for his children to producing NHS kit. Having made 20 visors, he is now diversifying his domestic production line to make components, which convert snorkelling masks for use with hospital ventilators. He is also rapid prototyping (or ‘printing’) so-called ‘superhero nurse’ headbands which make face masks more comfortable for medical staff to wear as they fit on the back of the head rather than on to the back of ears.

He said: “While browsing social media on the state of the Covid-19 situation, I was aware that there was a huge shortage of medical grade personal protective equipment for our NHS and other healthcare communities around the UK. It made me dust off my 3D printer and help contribute to the fight against Covid-19 and support our heroic NHS.

“I am glad I can help out and make use of my printer during this national crisis and keep myself active with volunteers during the furlough period. It is amazing what support there is out there and how much people would like to help.”

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On the other side of the world, Terex employees at the Genie aerial work platform (AWP) factory near Seattle in the USA, have also been volunteering their time to produce PPE, both by hand and by 3D printing.

At Genie, the effort began with a face shield design developed by Jim Donaldson, the engineering design manager for Terex AWP. He said: “After watching a video about the types of medical equipment our hospitals needed, I thought we would be able to make the face shields that go over the N95 masks. I went to the store and bought a sponge, bungee cord and a poster that came packaged in a plastic tube. I cut up the tube to make the shield, and then I attached the sponges and bungee cord.”

Jim Donaldson shared his idea with Genie president Matt Fearon, who agreed it was a concept worth exploring. Working with colleagues from project management, engineering and sourcing, the initial design was refined, and long-time supplier Allegis Corporation stepped in to source the necessary materials, even developing a custom tool to stamp out the shield shape.

“Our supplier really helped with moving this project forward — and moving it forward so quickly,” Mr Donaldson said.

With the design updated, the team then met representatives from a local hospital to gain a better understanding of needs and feedback on the face shield design.

Genie has this week begun production of the face shields and has enough material to produce an initial 4,000 to 5,000 face shields.

The Genie team has also developed a process for manufacturing face coverings using material provided by the hospital and a heat-sealing process to create seams and pleats.

Additionally, Genie engineers have used the company’s 3D printing capabilities to make some custom parts, which allowed critical hospital PPE to be put back into service quickly.

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