Peterborough based company innovates to provide front line support during global pandemic crisis.
The effects of the Covid 19 outbreak on both communities and businesses has been a dramatic one. The unprecedented limitations that have been brought into place to protect the nation and to support key workers has already had a notable impact on businesses. For one leading UK manufacturer, Photocentric, the situation has encouraged them to diversity and work towards bringing relevant, much needed solutions to market.
“Our first thoughts were for the safety of our staff and their families, some of whom are considered vulnerable. We still had a good order book but could we, should we, continue trading?” comments Roxanne Ellison for Photocentric.
As with many companies, Photocentric has prioritised creating a hygienic and secure working environment ensuring the safety of the team and their families. “We have actioned several precautions to ensure all staff are safe at work. In the office, we have a small body of employees who are essential to allow us to manufacture and deliver the thousands of parts required in hospitals and other medical bodies both locally and overseas,” she adds.
Photocentric, Patent holders in visible light curing technologies, has been manufacturing polymer resin in a wide range of applications including office stamps, crystal clear polymer craft stamps and 3D printing services providing solutions for dental, entertainment, industrial and figurine sectors. With over two decades of experience it has also been able to apply its expertise to now support the nation, and the global community on a much larger scale.
After hearing reports of a 3D printed ventilator valve being used in Italy and providing a lifeline to desperate Italian hospitals, the team at Photocentric decided to put their resources to good use and help the medical efforts on the front line fighting the virus.
“The Italian ventilator valve story was the trigger for us to think about how we could help with making parts to support hospitals. Since the outbreak we have mutated our business,” Roxanne says. The large format printers can make vast numbers of parts per day and the team have mobilised both the Magna printers, and the prototype large Maximus printers to produce various parts from masks, ventilator valves and, more recently, protective face shields.
“Another printer manufacturer – Prusa- released an open-source design for everyone who had one of their type of printers to manufacture their own face shields. Each one typically took an hour to print. One of our engineers, Ed Barlow, designed a much more efficient version for our printers. Within a few hours he had a prototype designed and within one week we are into full scale production of face shields. We can create about 20,000 of these a day.” she adds. With demand from hospitals, both local and further afield across Europe, for face shields, the focus has now shifted to help with the personal protective equipment – or PPE – shortage and protect health workers. “We will produce tens of thousands of face shields per day and open-source our manufacturing methods so everyone else can do it as well. We provide all the required how to guides and downloadable files via our website,” Roxanne explains.
“We have been reminded of the fact that in difficult times there is always opportunity. It’s about seeing how we can help each other first, then remembering that there is always something to do – now is the time to think about innovation and make plans for the future.”
Due to the nature of the manufacture process, with no additional tooling, designs can be quickly created and mass produced, this has highlighted the real value of the products and services from Photocentric. Refocusing a business to diversify and accommodate changing needs is not without its challenges, especially with stock and supply chains currently under incredible pressure. Creative Industry Association was happy to step in and assist. “It has been a challenge to source the plastic and elastic needed to complete the visors. Creative Industry Association has been extremely helpful in reaching out to craft suppliers to help us get elastic for headbands quickly,” comments Roxanne. “We will continue to need elastic (ideally button hole) so please do contact us if you have stock!”
These unprecedented times are causing considerable uncertainty for business across the country and beyond, and it is in times such as these that businesses increasing look to diversify or refine its offering. Roxanne credits the staff at Photocentric to the success of the current projects, “our dedicated and enthusiastic team is perhaps the biggest factor. We have some very passionate colleagues who love 3D printing and want to help and are prepared to go the extra mile to make it happen!”
Creative Industry Association are on hand to support your business during these uncertain times and beyond, as Roxanne comments, “We have been reminded of the fact that in difficult times there is always opportunity. It’s about seeing how we can help each other first, then remembering that there is always something to do – we are seeing some of our customers have time now to think about innovation and make plans for the future.”
You can find out more about Photocentric, the face visors and the other products & services at www.photocentricgroup.com
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