Wits engineers making shields for health workers dealing with Covid-19

: Wits face shield worn by Tshwarela Kolokoto, volunteer in the School of MIA
: Wits face shield worn by Tshwarela Kolokoto, volunteer in the School of MIA

A team made up of Wits university engineering experts are making shields for health practitioners that will be dealing with Covid-19 patients.

Guy Richards, Letlotlo Phohole, Moses Mogotlane, Palesa Riba and Randall Paton are creating the highly needed shields.

“Netcare was going to provide the actual shield and clips to put it together. We were not happy with the limitation and wanted to use what is readily available to us, cheap to make, and light-weight. Most of all, we wanted to produce a complete product. We also anticipated long printing times with a 3D printer and possible filament shortages given the national drive for face shields and masks,” said Phohole.

The team believes that they will be able to make 300 to 500 masks a day.

“We have developed a system that lets us feed the rolled plastic directly into the cutting bed and draw more through when done so speed is climbing,” said Paton.

Before the masks are handed over to health practitioners, they are washed, rinsed and dried to ensure all residue from the laser cutting is removed.

“We ensure that after production they [face shields] are washed, rinsed, and dried to remove any potentially harmful residue from the laser cutting. This is done in a production line fashion and is now the tightest bottleneck in the project, given that we only have one working laser cutter,” added Paton.

The team have donated 120 masks to the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre and another 20 to the Wits Protection Services staff. Two hundred masks will be provided to Charlotte Maxeka Academic Hospital and 100 masks to Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital.

Wits University's faculty of engineering also hopes to make respirators and other medical equipment to fight Covid-19. The university has raised over R100,000 for this venture through 68 donors.

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