Issue 4
Monday, 01 June 2020
Charles Darwin University
Co-Director (Medical) Surgery and Critical Care, and Director of Anaesthesia at Royal Darwin Hospital Dr Brian Spain
Co-Director (Medical) Surgery and Critical Care, and Director of Anaesthesia at Royal Darwin Hospital Dr Brian Spain

Engineers face up to global COVID-19 challenge

By Leanne Miles

The Charles Darwin University Advanced Manufacturing Alliance (AMA) has joined the global effort to address a shortage in personal protective equipment and help in the COVID-19 response efforts.

AMA Director Dr Rebecca Murray said the team had worked for the past month to optimise designs that could be manufactured locally to contribute to supplies of face shields and would deliver 1000 shields to Royal Darwin Hospital.

“COVID-19 has had an unprecedented impact on communities around the world,” Dr Murray said. “Basic equipment and supplies are being strained, and this has provided us an opportunity to help out where we can.”

Dr Murray said the AMA had gathered ideas from the community and sought advice from the Northern Territory medical community on how best to help.

“We came up with two face shield designs that have been trialled by doctors and nurses at the Royal Darwin Hospital,” Dr Murray said.

The shield used commonly available optimised A4 size transparencies for the face protection with a crescent shaped visor water-jet cut by Darwin Profile Cutting from solid polymer sheet to provide added protection from overhead droplets.

“The sheet polymer used is known for its low porosity, heat resistance and ability to be sterilised effectively,” she said.

CDU Engineer Matthew Harbidge said an important consideration while ensuring the equipment suited the needs of health workers was ease of manufacturing and scalability.

“One of the aims of the project was to provide a Therapeutic Goods Administration registered design that we could provide for others around the world free of charge,” Mr Harbidge said.

“The current visor design has a manufacturing time of one minute. It can be manufactured locally by anyone with an appropriate 2D laser or waterjet cutter. The design is also suitable for 3D printing, so has excellent potential for scalability or custom just-in-time manufacturing.”

Royal Darwin Hospital personal protective equipment supply chain is intact, and this local option has been well received.

RDH Director of ICU Dr Paul Goldrick said due to ongoing global supply chain problems it was reassuring to know a locally manufactured option for a critical item such as a face shield was available for Territory health care workers.

Australian Army soldiers currently working with CDU on an Army Additive Manufacturing trial were involved in design discussions and assisted in the production of the face shields.

The soldiers also printed 25 face shields and distributed them to Police Control Points around the Northern Territory for potential use by ADF personnel in support of the NT Government response to COVID-19.

The AMA has shared the designs on its website under a Creative Commons Licence. For more information visit: