Product and Process Innovation project helps manufacturer pivot

Following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, the UK government had an immediate requirement for industry to increase manufacturing of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers, including protective face visors. As such, companies across the UK were contracted to produce millions of items of PPE to distribute across the NHS. Duraweld Ltd, based in Scarborough, were contracted to supply 5.2 million face visors to the NHS by December 2020.

Duraweld usually manufacture stationary and packaging products including bespoke ring-binders and ID badges. Their customers include Aston Martin, Bentley, Costa and BT. When the UK lockdown was announced, they saw a reduced demand in their products and made the decision to apply its expertise in design of plastic products to develop a low-cost disposable, polypropylene visor.

The visor Duraweld designed is a single use respiratory protective equipment (RPE) product designed to protect users against the transmission of bacteria in order to prevent the spread of viruses and in particular, COVID-19. The product is comprised of a profiled polypropylene visor to cover the face, an elastic headband to fasten the visor and foam padding which sits between the top of the visor and the forehead. 75,000 of the face shields were tested by NHS clinicians and re-worked before the final design went in to production.

The final design is shorter than most PPE visors, enabling the wearer to look down without the visor touching the chest, restricting vertical head movement and limiting the downward field of vision. This provides better protection and comfort for the user, particularly for female medical staff and those providing bed-side treatment and relying on downward vision.

Initial test production and product trials were extremely successful and the company began producing 10,000 visors per day. After securing the contract with the Cabinet Office, the company needed to increase production to 28,000 per day. However, they found that their manual cutting process was time consuming and labour intensive. They therefore wanted to automate the cutting process by investing in a digital cutting machine.

The new machine was purchased with help from a £20,000 grant from the Product and Process Innovation (PAPI) project at the University of York.

With the new machinery, the company has been able to scale-up production of the visors, supplying NHS staff with much needed PPE. They have also been able to secure the jobs of 27 employees, who were previously furloughed, and employ an additional 45 staff on an initial six month contract. After the government contract has been fulfilled, Duraweld will be able to use the new machinery to develop and manufacture a new range of products and enter new markets as the economy recovers.

Duraweld says ‘The Product and Process Innovation (PAPI) project at the University of York have been fantastic to work with. At the height of the pandemic, when we were under pressure and working at a very fast pace, the help, support and flexibility was massively appreciated. It is fantastic that we have been awarded the grant, and it has enabled us to invest in a critical piece of equipment which will allow us to deliver over 5m Duraweld Face Sheids to front line health workers.’
The Product and Process Innovation (PAPI) project has helped small businesses in York, North Yorkshire, East Riding and Leeds City Region develop innovative new products by providing grants for equipment since 2016.

Delivered by the University of York, a team of Innovation Advisers can help companies apply for a grant of between £8,000 and £20,000 for the purchase of equipment which will create new products, services and jobs. The project has provided over £2 million of funding, supporting over 100 businesses to create 130 new jobs, and 100 new products. The funding will continue until 2022.

The PAPI Project is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014 to 2020.

The project is open for applications now. Businesses can quickly check their eligibility and apply on the website at or by calling 01904 328076.