Ricoh will produce 40 000 face shields every week for the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) to help healthcare workers in their attempts to help Covid-19 patients.

The face shields, rapidly prototyped using Ricoh 3D printing technology, are designed to be comfortable and reusable to cut long-term costs.

“Healthcare workers are working long hours and standard face masks, which are in global short supply, have proved to be uncomfortable hooked around their ears with elastics to keep them in place,” says Jacques van Wyk, CEO of Ricoh SA.

Ricoh 3D is currently in discussions with medical establishments and NHS Trusts across the UK.

“Our people worked around the clock to get effective protective equipment to the frontline,” says Van Wyk. “They used our 3D printing technology to rapidly prototype the face masks just 24 hours after getting the design file and by calling on our supplier network. The design improves comfort and reduces chances of infection and has now been approved for production.”

Estimates show that as many as 150 000 face masks will be used in London every day. Ricoh will use a 150-tonne injection moulding machine to produce the face masks.

“Our site in the UK is designed to quickly take a product like these face shields from concept to serial production. After our people saw the pictures of nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers’ faces haemorrhaging from the uncomfortable traditional-style face masks they set to work. Those healthcare people are routinely working 12-hour shifts. The new face shields use lightweight polypropylene that’s flexible, watertight and fatigue resistant.”