Ångström engineering workshop is 3D-printing visor frames
There is currently a high demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) for health and care staff to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. And some of those who want to do their part are the engineers at the Ångström engineering workshop – they have started to 3D-print frames for protective visors.
It was only last week that the uPrint Plus 3D printer in the Ångström engineering workshop was rapidly reprogrammed for a new task: to print visor frames for personal protective equipment. Henrik Hermansson, who took this initiative, usually teaches in the Bachelor of Science programme in mechanical engineering. But with the workshop emptied of students working on degree projects, and time on his hands as a result of the distance education timetable, he began to think about a prototype for a visor.
How did you get started with this?
"I thought that because we have a 3D printer that isn't being used for very much right now, we could at least try and see if it worked. So we tested printing a frame and it went well,” says Henrik Hermansson.
He didn’t need to come up with the design for the frame, however. He found that very quickly, available under a creative commons license on web-based company 3DVerkstan’s website. Printing out a visor frame takes a bit over 70 minutes using the Ångström engineering workshop printer, so no more than around 10 can be printed per day. But at least the ABS plastic used for the printing won’t run out in a hurry as there is a large quantity in the workshop’s stores.
An overhead transparency is then attached to the 3D-printed frame to complete the visor. But workshop engineer Svante Andersson has already thought of an alternative.
"I'm going to try out using a sheet of laminating film, so that it will be a bit stiffer and I can shape it better. If you use the protective visor with a face mask over your nose and mouth, you have at least some protection, even if the face mask itself doesn’t comply with the highest European P class, FFP3,” says Svante Andersson.
Hoping to develop a better prototype
The frame is printed in ABS plastic which can tolerate alcohol, which not all plastics can, according to Henrik Hermansson. The overhead transparency plastic can also be cleaned with alcohol. The visor is then secured with an elastic band on the back of the head.
But the engineers are hoping to make their own version, better design for the frame, as the pins that attach the plastic visor to the frame might break.
“I have an idea that you could make holes in the frame itself so you can attach the overhead transparency plastic with safety pins, paper clips or steel wire. That will mean of course that there are more parts to keep track of, but this way you could easily repair the frame with any suitable material you happen to have on hand to attach the visor if necessary,” says Henrik Hermansson.
Have you talked to anyone about supplying equipment?
“The closest I have come to this is talking to pharmacy staff. People come into pharmacies, and although they might be wearing face masks, they can be standing just a few decimetres away from the staff when they cough. So those staff don't have it easy. But we don’t have any concrete agreements with anyone. We’re engineers, so we just try to find solutions to problems that arise,” says Svante Andersson.