East Midlands-based Rutland Plastics (www.rutlandplastics.co.uk
, an injection moulding specialist, helped a public school to produce thousands of pieces of PPE for frontline workers during the early days of the Covid-19 crisis.
While Oakham School was closed during lockdown, staff used 3-D printers and laser cutters from its Design and Technology Department to begin making face shields.
With the help of the local firm, the school boost productivity, up from just a handful a day, to 8,000. Rutland Plastics’ technical manager Carl Martin says they were originally asked to 3-D print a number of headbands for the shields, but decided it would be more cost effective to manufacture a mould tool using their VISI software package, and then injection mould the plastic product from it.
“We received the initial design for the 3-D printed product, and modified it in VISI (www.visicadcam.com
) to make it injection mouldable. Once that was completed and approved, we designed the tool in VISI using a Meusburger bolster with aluminium bolster plates.”
The design then went into the toolroom and was milled on Rutland Plastics’ Mazak VCN 530C CNC machine with toolpaths created through VISI’s CAM functionality. The process from taking in the initial 3-D design, through turning it into a mouldable product, and finalising the mould tool, took less than a week.
When the two-impression mould was set up on the firm’s 80-tonne Engel moulding machine, both parts of the headband were formed from a medically-accredited polypropylene every 24sec during the production run of 25,000.
To complete the full screen face masks, Oakham School arranged for the headbands to be attached to plastic visors, which were then distributed to frontline NHS staff and key workers.
As medical products were already part of Rutland Plastics’ portfolio, they remained fully open during the Coronavirus lockdown, and extended their output with additional components aimed at helping the fight against Covid-19.
Its suite of VISI products and modules, from Hexagon’s production software portfolio, has been instrumental in the design and production of a number of mould tools for those products, which include two components for a contactless door-opener.
Mr Martin concluded: “That device allows doors to be opened and closed without having to touch the handles – particularly important to stop the spread of Coronavirus.”
The company is also part of a national consortium geared up to increase the manufacture of ventilators, and has taken delivery of a mould tool from Taiwan, moulding ventilator front covers from ABS thermo plastic polymer.