Tipperary schools come together to manufacture PPE visors for healthcare staff

Picture: St Ailbe's School Facebook

Tipperary schools are coming together to manufacture PPE visors for healthcare staff in their local communities.

St Ailbe's School, a secondary school in Tipperary town, originally started the initiative.

The school uses a 3D printer and acrylic perspex (plastic) sheets to make visors.

"We purchased a 3D laser printer a number of months ago, obviously we had no idea that it would be used to make such vital equipment at the time," says Kieran O'Dwyer, Vice Principal in St Ailbe's.

"When we saw that PPE wasn't forthcoming or was not sufficient, especially for local health centres like GPs and nursing homes, our construction teacher Eoin Kennedy came up with an idea.

"He was able to produce visors by creating headbands, with holes punched into them, so acrylic sheets can be placed over the face.

"The headbands can be reused but the sheets [must] be replaced.

"Mr Kennedy found an open-source design and adapted it to produce these."

The school was able to produce roughly 120-180 visors, which they delivered to local health care centres.

"We had a very good response, they were snapped up very quickly."

However, since the school only had a limited supply of acrylic plastic sheets, they needed to look for funding in order to continue buying the plastic required to make the PPE products.

"We approached Johnson & Johnson to see if they would fund the acrylic sheets, and they did.

"We have a batch of 800 visors now which are already in production."

St Ailbe's reached out to other Education and Training Board schools in Tipperary, and Coláiste Phobal in Roscrea and Clonmel Technical Institute also have the necessary equipment to make the visors, so decided to come on board.

"Obviously no one is charging for this, and we hope to have three schools manufacturing these visors. Some of our school suppliers [of acrylic sheets] are selling the material at cost price, so no one is making a financial gain.

We are delighted with the way things are going.

Anthony Collins, who works for Johnson & Johnson, says the company already had a good relationship with the school through their apprenticeship programme and were happy to help.

"It was Tuesday evening when Kieran rang me and told me about what they were doing with the visors, and how they were making them with their own equipment in the school.

"Getting the raw materials and funding was one of the issues they were facing, so I went to the [Johnson & Johnson] plant manager and they were more than happy to help as a company, by providing the funding for the raw materials."