Skills, knowledge and technology come together towards good cause

We all stand together. This seems to be the motto at the Faculty of Engineering, Stellenbosch University (SU) during these days of Covid-19. Several projects are underway in the Faculty to prevent the spread of the virus or to treat seriously ill patients.

In a collaborative project, a team in the Department of Mechanical and Mechatronic (M&M) Engineering are printing headbands for plastic face shields to be used as protective gear for the healthcare workers working with patients. This project is under the leadership of Dr Rudolph Venter, an orthopaedic surgeon and lecturer in Clinical Anatomy at SU’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS). Dr Venter approached M&M with the request to put the Department’s spare 3D printers at their disposal.

“The finished product consists of a clear plastic sheet and elastic strap that is attached to the parts (headbands) that we have printed,” says Kevin Neaves who is driving the 3D printing of headbands in the Department of Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering. “The headbands are generally printed in a stack of four to reduce the amount of times you need to visit the machine. The stack is then split and a minor clean-up is performed on the surfaces if necessary. The final assembly of the of the shields are done at the Tygerberg campus by a group in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.

“To date we have printed over 500 headbands. (The Department of Industrial Engineering and some of my friends also jumped in to help.) This works out to over 7 km of filament and well over 1 000 hours of printer time.”

Mr Neaves concludes: “We recently received a donation from the Harry Crossley Foundation, a longstanding partner of the University, and have used it to purchase an additional printer and consumables. M&M is now running five printers for this project. The University is doing its collective best to battle Covid-19 and to protect the community. It is truly inspirational to see the skills, knowledge and technology come together towards this good cause.”

The printer’s assembly and first print can be seen in the video link below.

Photo left: The 3D printers.

Photo insert: One 3D printed headband.

Photo right: Stacks of 3D printed headbands.

The Faculty of Engineering is also involved in two ventilator projects. See here for more information regarding the Non-Invasive Ventilation System (NVS).