Cultural venue leads PPE support
South Tyneside cultural attraction The Word is lending its support to the coronavirus crisis by helping to produce critical eye protection for frontline care workers.
The Word, National Centre for the Written Word, has joined forces with mixed media artist Laura Jones to create visors to boost supplies that ensure all care workers are protected whilst carrying out their vital key worker roles during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Laura is artist in residence at FabLab @ The Word - a state-of-the-art suite where budding designers and entrepreneurs can digitally design an object and bring it to life using high-tech Ultimaker 3D printers as well as vinyl and laser cutters.
Before Easter Laura set up a 'FabLab' at her Sunderland home and is using The Word's four 3D printers - alongside her own and another four she has borrowed - to produce up to 200 full face visors a day, using the specifications most widely used by the NHS.
Laura, whose day job as a supply teacher is currently on hold, said: "Because I cannot work at the moment and was doing art work at home, I wanted to do something more productive with my time.
"So, in response to the need for more protective wear for healthcare workers, I pulled in resources and contacts and started using the 3D printers to make the visors from home.
"The beauty with these printers is that they can be used to make almost any bespoke object."
The 3D printers typically lay down many thin layers of material in succession to produce a 3D object, with the new protective visors being created to the same design and specifications as those used by the NHS. The frame is also made from PLA - a compositable bioplastic which is good for the environment.
Businesses and organisations have also donated materials for the visors. This includes the elastic for the fasteners provided by local company, BST Fabrics Ltd, of Rekendyke Industrial Estate, South Shields.
Councillor Iain Malcolm, Leader of South Tyneside Council, said: "We are absolutely committed to playing our part in any way we can during this emergency.
"While The Word is closed to the public, it is still playing a part as an amazing community asset. As well as providing a mobile library service, library staff have been redeployed to directly support vulnerable residents to access essential food and medication. This next step, lending state-of-the-art equipment, demonstrates the innovation that is at the heart of this national attraction.
"Through the FabLab @ The Word and our fantastic artist in residence, we have the technology and the expertise to help support the national effort, to produce vital eye protection for those who need it in our residential and care homes."
Laura added: "There has been a great sense of community spirit with businesses and organisations providing material and equipment to get this up and running. While people are at home isolating, it almost feels like we're not actually isolated - we're all coming together and people have been so supportive and kind. It's fantastic."
Businesses, communities, individuals and schools across the Borough have also come together to support the wider national effort of getting supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including face masks and eye wear, to local care providers.
Councillor Malcolm said: "It's wonderful to see organisations, communities, individuals and businesses from across a range of trades and spectrums all coming together, pitching in to help in the fight against this pandemic. The borough has certainly risen to the challenge.
"I'd like to thank them all for playing their part in supporting our frontline care providers to stay as safe as possible while supporting the most vulnerable in our communities."