Manufacturers join forces to produce ‘reusable’ visors for frontline staff

Protecting frontline workers against the threat of Covid-19 has been the catalyst for nine manufacturers and an engineering design agency to come together to launch a new product.

The Manufacturing Assembly Network, which employs over 2000 people across 21 factories, has invested more than £30,000 into the design and manufacture of the manKIND Visor, which it says is an easy to assemble and reusable visor that is more comfortable than the current options available.

Backed by expertise from the Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), the collective took just six weeks from initial concept and prototyping to create a bespoke tool at Barkley Plastics able to produce 500,000 units every year.

The first 20,000 are being donated to charitable causes, with South Warwickshire NHS Trust, New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton, Support Staffordshire and the Pen Museum in Birmingham some of the first recipients to benefit.

Once this allocation has been finalised, the manKIND visor will then be sold directly to healthcare organisations, schools, retailers and businesses looking to safely return to work.

“We initially started 3D printing and distributing a few visors to help the NHS, but quickly realised we needed a more robust production method to keep up with demand,” said Austin Owens, founder of Grove Design.

“This is when we approached other members in the MAN Group to look at options and came up with the plan to design and develop our own version, tapping into Barkley Plastics’ toolmaking and moulding expertise and the collective’s supply chain capability for sourcing the right materials and distribution.”

He added: “There was no point just coming up with a similar product to those already out there. Instead our visor is lightweight, easy to assemble with a push clip feature, suitable for repeated use, can be easily cleaned (the headband can even be put in a dishwasher) and includes a full peak for better protection.

“Comfort was also a priority and this is reflected in the inclusion of a ‘stretch’ headband that removes the need for a foam band and elasticated straps. Importantly, the user also has space to wear a face mask underneath it and the visor fits a variety of head sizes, making it suitable for many children.”

Central to the success of the manKIND visor was the development of the mould tool and this challenge was taken up by Birmingham-based Barkley Plastics.

It took five toolmakers, including a young engineer who had just completed his apprenticeship, three weeks to come up with a solution, with the most intricate part being the area that makes the adjustable strap – not usually seen in mainstream visors.

Matt Harwood, business development manager at Barkley Plastics, said: “This is a fantastic effort from the MAN Group and shows what can be achieved in a short timeframe when manufacturers pool resources and expertise. The first 20,000 are being delivered now to frontline workers and this will hopefully go a long way to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and protect lives.

“The way our visor has been designed should also make wearing them for longer periods slightly easier and, we know from feedback received from medical professionals, this will be a very welcome feature.”

With nearly all 20,000 donated items ready for dispatch, Grove Design and pressings specialist Brandauer are now taking the manKIND visor commercial and making it available to NHS Trusts, the healthcare sector, retailers, leisure and manufacturers who can’t socially distance.