Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 5 August 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus: Etihad engineer designs 3D-printed face shields

Khalil Lari and his team came up with the idea after friends and colleagues complained about having to wear uncomfortable face masks at work

An innovative Emirati engineer has designed and created more than 1,000 3D-printed face shields to help protect frontline workers and volunteers in the UAE.

Khalil Lari, who is part of the engineering team at Etihad Airways, collaborated with his co-workers to produce a reusable shield and bracket to safeguard people from Covid-19.

He came up with the idea after hearing complaints from friends and colleagues about having to wear uncomfortable and ill-fitting face masks at work.

The team designed six different prototypes before settling on the final product, which was 3D-printed at the airline's engineering laboratory in Abu Dhabi.

The shields were given to healthcare staff at a number of different Seha clinics across the city as well as volunteers at Emirates Red Crescent.

What was nice about working on this product was the fact it was made from residual materials from inside the aircraft cabin

Khalil Lari

“Engineers and medical staff kept saying the masks were annoying and hurting their ears, so that's where the idea came from," Mr Lari told The National.

“The head of our medical centre approached me and asked if we could use the 3D-printer to make something more comfortable."

The request was also part of a CSR initiative.

The face shield and bracket is made out of a reusable plastic band which requires standard disinfection and a disposable plastic shield which can be replaced.

In his normal day job, Mr Lari, who is a design engineer at Etihad Engineering, usually 3D prints cabin parts on-demand using Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) and Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM).

He makes items such as arm rests, cup holders and seat locators for inside the plane.

A staff member at Etihad wearing a 3D-printed shield mask. Courtesy: Etihad
Staff member at Etihad wearing 3D-printed shield mask. Courtesy - Etihad

For this project, he said he had the chance to get a little more creative and help create a product for the UAE heroes battling the pandemic.

The American University of Sharjah alumni said the team “randomly” came up with an idea to print a bracket and shield mechanism after scrolling through reviews online.

“We wanted to find out what the biggest complaints were about personal protective wear,” he said.

“The most common issue was that the shield was too close to the face and kept fogging up.

“Others moaned that it was a nuisance if you wore glasses because it just kept hitting up against them.

"We took on board what people didn’t like, worked around that and then decided to make an inner bracket to act as a kind of spacer between the shield and face.”

After the final prototype was signed off by the in-house medical centre, work began to bring it to life.

And once the materials were set inside the printing chamber, they were able to print 136 pieces per print run - each process of which takes three days.

“We printed about 1,000 pieces over a few weeks and each bracket took about three and a half hours to produce,” he said.

“We pre-installed elastic bands so that users can tighten and loosen to their liking.

“It feels good to know some of the masks are being used by staff working through the pandemic.

"Some are also being used by our own medical team and we’ve had good feedback.”

Updated: July 14, 2020 02:22 PM

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