Inverness Companies Join Forces to Meet Urgent Need for PPE

Two innovative companies based in Inverness have joined forces to meet the current urgent need for PPE, they have produced a 1,000 face-shields and have released the design for open-source manufacture.

4c Engineering and Aseptium are neighbours in HIE’s Solasta House facility on the Inverness Campus who contacted the local hospital to see if their combined design and rapid manufacturing capabilities could be used to tackle a range of key challenges.

Their offer to produce face shields was take up by the ICU team at Raigmore.

This started Project Corran (taken from the Gaelic for crescent, the shape of the face shield when viewed from above)

Working to a clear brief, the team designed the simplest method of providing face protection that would be robust, secure, comfortable and could be rapidly manufactured in volume.

Part way through the design process, the supply chain challenge increased due to national lockdown which severely curtailed material availability, however led by the Inverness Chamber of Commerce, the business community rallied and went to extra lengths in providing materials.

After sourcing materials and refining the design throughout the week, a meeting was held on Friday afternoon where the first prototype was presented to Raigmore ICU and Infection Control staff – they were happy with it exactly as it was, and gave the green light for 1,000 units

Under the organised leadership of 4c’s Jenny Allen, the Project Corran team worked right through the weekend in shifts of staff and volunteers, and the first 200 face shields were delivered to Raigmore on Monday afternoon.

The Corran design is simple, and unlike alternatives does not require 3D printing – it is made of four commonly available components.

The design is being made freely available and can be found on this link with full manufacture guidance.

The only requests are that design credit is given, modified designs have an equally open license and that manufacture is non-profit.

Wider adoption is already underway; Lochgilphead-based Midton Engineering have taken the design, had it approved by hospitals in Oban and Mid-Argyll and are now moving into manufacture.

The companies and organisations who helped with materials are:

Supplies & Materials: Dunelm Mill, James Dow, Highland Office Equipment, Porex Technologies Ltd

Volunteers & Advice: HIE, SMAS, LifeScan, Glenmore Lodge, Inverness Chamber of Commerce, Varrich Engineering

Commenting on the project, Peter MacDonald, Director of 4c Engineering said:

“The end result of this engineering, procurement and manufacturing challenge is a simple and efficient design, however this is the result of considerable applied innovation to mitigate the supply chain constraints.

“Although national procurement of PPE has been progressing at pace, we were able to ensure that the ICU in Raigmore, our local hospital, was well provided with the first 1,000 Corran face-shields and as we’ve made it open-source we hope that the lessons we’ve learned can be applied by makers across the country and beyond.”

Pawel de Sternberg Stojalowski of Aseptium Added:

“This project is a testimony to what a collective of engineers can achieve when they face a challenge together.

“It’s all about community and collaboration.”

Jenny Allen, of 4c Engineering who managed the production process echoed this:

“It’s been amazing working with a talented team to get the job done. 

“Everyone has come up with ideas, discussed problems (how do we have tables close enough to pass the visors along the production line while staying 2m apart?) and got completely stuck in to get the visors to the NHS staff who need it”

Stewart Nicol, Chief Executive of Inverness Chamber of Commerce added:

“I congratulate Chamber members 4c Engineering and their partners on an outstanding and remarkable achievement.

“It has been great to work with them to help source materials and local suppliers.

“The delivery of a substantial quantity of this vital equipment to help NHS Highland deal with the challenge of COVID-19 in such a short timescale is outstanding.

“To make their design ‘open source’ is a credit to everyone at 4c Engineering and it is fantastic to see innovative Highland businesses leading the way.”

Dr. Jonathan Whiteside, Clinical Lead, Department of Critical Care at Raigmore Hospital said:

“Whilst we are generally happy with the NHS supply chain, at times of great demand, such as we are seeing with the CoViD-19 pandemic, there can be interruptions or shortages.

“We were delighted to be approached by 4c Engineering, who were able to source materials locally, and produce much needed protective visors.

“These have been put to immediate clinical use in our Intensive Care Unit, providing staff with the necessary protection and allowing them to continue to provide high quality care, during these difficult times.

“Our whole team are extremely grateful and are proud to be supported by local businesses working together, and helping us care for our patients in NHS Highland.”