By Holger Dielenberg
Covid-19 highlighted Australia’s health PPE vulnerability and our need for domestic manufacturing security. The onslaught of GP and hospital attendances and news of frontline workers resorting to ponchos and welding shields for protection against viral infection led Space Tank to design an Australian Made and sustainable face shield solution.
We investigated the compelling need for health PPE to be comfortable, easy to use, clean and affordable. And we also wanted to achieve a competitive domestic solution. A review of existing products and crowd sourced designs led us to identify the one-piece folding concept to be by far the best conceptual approach. The simple curved folding pattern closes the gap between forehead and shield and provides a critical barrier against air borne viral droplets from above.
However even existing folding concepts are bulky, uncomfortable and pointy at the fold points, and they often require cumbersome foam or straps and buckles. From a cost perspective none of the crowd sourced designs have undergone production efficiencies.
Our search for the best blend of function, style and cost led us to prove that less is more. Our one-piece flat pack solution can be easily sterilised for re-use, eliminates unnecessary parts, reduces storage space and shipping costs and allows manufacturing efficiencies.
The curved folding mechanism is a key design feature that brings rigidity and allows a comfortable fit while importantly closing the gap between forehead and shield. This eliminates the need for foam padding and can be easily sterilised using standard sterilisation methods. It has two strap lengths for size variation.
The product is distributed flat packed to better support procurement logistics and minimal human contact is required in the manufacturing process, thus dramatically reducing viral and bacterial contamination.
Space Tank worked with health and medical staff from Monash Medical, Northern Health, Connect Health and has closely communicated with State and Federal Government Covid-19 PPE response teams to ensure the design meets all of the fundamental face shield requirements.
Early prototypes used a 2 part strap and shield design but this approach could not achieve the manufacturing efficiency or the ease of assembly that we were looking for. One of the key criteria was sterilisation and more parts are harder to sanitise.
We continued studying existing methods and designs including 3D printing and chose to improve an open source DIY folded concept which has also been championed by Queensland and Cambridge Universities. Even the folding concept presented ergonomic issues, multiple parts and manufacturing challenges. So we continued to push all of our aggregated criteria through a reduction/improvement and parts elimination process to identify the simplest, most effective and low cost manufacturing solution that would address the essence of intended use.
Our methodology followed documented prototype iterations, pivots and production efficiency modelling to find the best cost/benefit ratio. With every design iteration we incorporated a feed back loop of field evidence and results from product trials. While economically rationalising our design to the bare minimum, we were mindful to maintain a high degree of style. We want people to feel proud and cool when wearing health PPE.
COMMERCIAL SUSTAINABILITY AND SCALE/REPLICATION POTENTIAL
Government policy for the domestic supply of health PPE has informed our commercial sustainability target. Our logistics methodology has been designed to scale comfortably according to demand. Volume can scale from 1,000/day to 250,000/day and response time once tooling is complete is between one day to one week.
Rapid Shield is 100% made and packaged in Melbourne’s North, including the manufacturing of raw Anti-fog PET film. The face shield is completely recyclable and at high volume supply, the production process will utilise a zero waste mass manufacturing methodology.
MADE LOCALLY AND SUSTAINABLY
Rapid Shield is an Australian made product. Licence ID:11324
• 100% manufactured and packaged in Melbourne’s North.
• Zero waste manufacturing with all off cut material re-used.
• Shield is 100% recyclable.
Rapid Shield is a TGA Registered Device: ARTG No: 334403 and meets AS/NZS 1336:2014 standards with the exception of low-level impact requirements. Manufacturing of Anti-fog PET plastic film production complies with GMP, HACCP, ISO9001, FSSC 22000.
Rapid-Shield meets Health Purchasing Victoria (HPV) criteria as specified:
• AS/NZS 1336:2014
• Anti-fog PET plastic film.
• Forehead to chin 22-25 cm ear to ear 33cm.
• Disposable or reusable with disinfection wipe in between patients.
• Foam padding applied to inside forehead section – optional.
• Non-latex elastic to secure around back of head.
Design registration number: 202012489