Tata Motors European Technical Centre producing face shields for NHS

Designers at a Coventry-based automotive centre of excellence are supporting the battle against Covid-19 by 3D printing hundreds of vital face shields for frontline NHS staff.

The Design Modelling Operations team at Tata Motors European Technical Centre (TMETC) are more used to using their expertise to create innovative cars of tomorrow.

But now they have responded to the pandemic by producing coronavirus face shields for local hospitals.

The first batch of visors have been made using 3D printers and have been delivered to nurses and doctors at Birmingham Children's Hospital, a GP surgery in Oldbury and George Eliot Hospital in Nuneaton.

The five-strong TMETC team hopes to ramp up production to around 320 visors a month in the coming weeks.

Russell Beecroft, General Manager of Design Modelling Operations at TMETC, said: "We're delighted to be helping in the battle against Covid-19 in this small way.

"We use small 3D printers in our day jobs to create models and parts while we're designing the ground-breaking new cars.

"We saw an opportunity use our expertise and to put the 3D printing machines to good use by using them to make these face shields.

"It is no secret that PPE is at a premium at the moment, so those who have already received our face shields have been extremely grateful. They've been overwhelmed and it's lovely to see. It's all about helping the doctors and nurses in our area."

Three 3D printers are being used to create the main frame and then the TMETC team are assembling the masks at their homes using the additional materials.

CAD specialists at TMETC took a pre-existing visor design file and tweaked it to optimise printing time. Additional materials were added to make it more comfortable to wear.

Prototypes were sent to Birmingham Children's Hospital, George Eliot Hospital and University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire.

Russell added: "The response from the hospitals has been brilliant. Birmingham Children's Hospital said they are the best face visors they have received.

"We know that frontline staff are wearing those visors for hours at a time, which can be very uncomfortable across the forehead. We are therefore trying to make our visors as comfortable as possible, as well as being hard wearing, so that the doctors and nurses can concentrate on the job at hand."

TMETC, a subsidiary of Tata Motors based at the National Automotive Innovation Centre (NAIC) in Coventry, has been supported in the project by some of its suppliers.

Envisage Group is supplying the clear plastic for the visors and some elastic for the bands, ATD has provided all the Velcro and neoprene foam and Wurth has been supplying the fixings.

Russell said: "It has been a real privilege to be helping the NHS at this time alongside our day jobs of designing innovative cars."

TMETC was launched in 2005 as a UK-based centre of excellence for automotive design and engineering for Tata Motors. Its team of engineering experts develop vehicle technologies to meet the needs of future generations in the world of autonomous, connected, electric and shared mobility.

The company's NAIC home was officially opened by HRH The Prince of Wales in February.