Coventry-based flooring manufacturer Amtico has joined forces with schools in the battle against COVID-19 by utilising its production facilities and expertise to produce parts needed for life-saving face shields used by frontline NHS and critical key workers. The company has already produced 4,500 of the headbands to date, with capacity to produce up to 20,000 per day.
While Amtico is renowned for its luxury vinyl tile (LVT) flooring, the company has successfully adapted the materials and machinery used in its production to create parts for essential PPE for use throughout the UK. This comes as the result of joining forces with schools from around the country, who were working on producing face shields using 3D printing before assembling them and distributing them nationwide.
The original 3D printed design consisted of a headband made from three separate components, which was then clipped to a clear acetate visor. As the headband is the most complex and time-consuming component of a protective face shield, Amtico stepped in to help improve the efficiency and speed of production.
The company assembled a dedicated team of technical, CAD and cutting specialists and, within a few hours, modified the design of the headband. Adapting it to comprise of two separate components, rather than three, ensured it was more secure and structurally sound, as well as faster and more efficient to assemble, with less wastage. Amtico also created a new composition of its flooring material specifically for the head straps, ensuring the best balance between flexibility and rigidity, with the ultimate aim of making them as comfortable and practical as possible for frontline NHS staff and critical key workers.
Gary Wilson, Head of Technical at Amtico, explains further: “We used a material modified from the 1mm wear layer used in our Signature LVT product, which is chemically inert and made with phthalate-free plasticiser. This is extremely flexible, durable and it is easy to cut, so we were able to produce the headband with tolerances that allow a secure, comfortable fit.”
Once prototype headbands had been successfully produced, they were then sent to the Merchant Taylors’ School in Hertfordshire, where they were assembled with their face shields.
Andrew Duffey, Head of Design, Engineering & Technology at Merchant Taylors’ School, commented: “Amtico has helped us to greatly increase production, so that we can help even more frontline staff. When we were laser cutting our own frames, we were producing 650 per week; however, since Amtico has been able to supply the PVC frame, we’ve managed to increase this to 4,500 units per week.”
The final samples were then taken to Watford General Hospital to show an ICU surgeon, who approved the design and immediately placed an order for 2,000 units. These were then produced by Amtico, free of charge, within seven hours of NHS approval. A further 12,000 parts have been ordered to create face shields for many hospitals throughout North and West London, including Royal Free London, Chelsea & Westminster, Northwick Park and Mount Vernon, as well as Watford General.
Commenting on producing the PPE face shields, Jonathan Duck, CEO at Amtico, said: “I’m proud of the way Amtico, as a company, rises to new challenges. Members of our CAD, cutting and material development teams listened carefully to feedback from the NHS to make sure the headband was not only functional but comfortable. We were able to draw on our technical expertise, modifying the design for maximum efficiency, scaling up production and helping local schools support the NHS and other key workers.”
Amtico is now working closely with the Design and Technology Association to reach out to schools throughout the UK to help supply more hospitals and NHS Trusts with essential items of PPE. The company is also listed on the Government’s official PPE procurement service.