Bracing for a long battle against COVID-19: General Use Face Shields designed by PolyU ready for mass production

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The situation in Hong Kong has become more critical amid the rise of confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections. Experts have warned that members of the public should prepare for a long fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past few months, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has been closely monitoring the situation and has devised plans to help contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Prof. Alex Wai, and Prof. HC Man, announce the launch of two new reusable face shields, namely “General Use Face Shield” and “Extra Protection Face Shield”

In February 2020, PolyU designed and started producing disposable face shields for the Hospital Authority in order to alleviate the immediate need for protective gear amongst frontline medical professionals. PolyU today announced the launch of two new reusable face shields, namely “General Use Face Shield” and “Extra Protection Face Shield”, both of which will soon be available at affordable prices. It is hoped that the face shields could provide enhanced protection for the public in their daily lives and working environment thus minimising the risks of virus transmission in the community.

Together with his team, Professor HC MAN, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Director of the University Research Facility in 3D Printing, PolyU, has designed the “General Use Face Shield” for the public. The specially designed face shield, which provides full-face coverage, will help to protect from the spread of droplet-transmitted diseases. Currently, the government urges the public to practise social distancing, but for those who need to go to work or attend an essential event, wearing a face shield would definitely help to reduce the risk of infection. Also, it is important for frontline staff of those service industries which serve their customers in close proximity, and care-givers who take care of elderly people living alone, to wear a face shield in addition to a regular face mask for maximum protection. While for schoolchildren who tend to rub their eyes unintentionally, wearing a face shield would help prevent them from touching their face with their hands and subsequently reduce the risk of them getting infected.

Professor Man pointed out that his team has taken into account not only the functionality but also the cost-effectiveness of the material used when designing a face shield for general use. He explained, “Both types of face shield are reusable after cleaning as they are made of lightweight and environmentally-friendly PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) plastic material using the vacuum forming technique, which helps to lower production costs. Our research team used 3D printing technology to develop a prototype and has conducted multiple rounds of tests and modifications. We then invited frontline staff from the social welfare sector to try out the new face shields. We are delighted that our team has received positive feedback from users. In the fight against this months-long pandemic, we hope that these face shields designed will benefit more people in need”. Professor Man expressed gratitude to the social welfare organisations involved for providing valuable feedback, which helped in modifying the designs. He said the design of “General Use Face Shield” and “Extra Protection Face Shield” would not fog up easily, thanks to their unique designs that help to maintain visual clarity, while also providing a comfortable wearing experience for users. The “General Use Face Shield” is suitable for everyone; while the “Extra Protection Face Shield” offers broader protection by covering the forehead and hair. PolyU has handed over the designs to a manufacturer for mass production and is expecting the first delivery in late April 2020. The first batch of face shields will be dispatched to the PolyU community, including staff, students and frontline workers on campus. Donations to various social welfare partners will also be made in due course.

Professor Alexander WAI Ping-kong, Deputy President and Provost of PolyU, said, “As the second wave of COVID-19 has swept the globe, it is unlikely that the epidemic will subside in a short time. While we are seeking sustainable measures to cope with the situation, we also have to learn to live with the virus until we have an effective antiviral drug available in the market. We are particularly concerned about the needs of medical professionals with regard to protective gear, and we understand the challenges encountered by the frontline workers in the social welfare sector and service industries. Designing face shields is not rocket science, but PolyU will strive to do whatever we can to contribute to the community and work hand in hand with Hong Kong people to fight against the outbreak with our innovative minds and pragmatic solutions.”

Earlier, care-givers and frontline staff of the Christian Family Service Centre and the Hong Kong Christian Service were invited to try out the new face shields. All users expressed appreciation with regard to the comfortable wearing experience, saying that the face shields are especially suitable for staff working long hours. When providing care for their patients, the provision of a face shield would also help set at ease the minds of frontline staff. They hoped that the face shields would be made widely used in the community soon, so that more frontline staff would enjoy a better protection during the epidemic.

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