When a UK school decided to make face shields to protect frontline workers from COVID-19, a nearby injection moulding specialist was able to give the school a huge productivity boost, using Hexagon’s VISI software.
Oakham School’s technology department owned 3D printers and laser cutters that could be used to manufacture PPE. The problem was production capacity. The school was only able to produce a handful of parts a day. So, it turned to local company Rutland Plastics for advice. Rutland Plastics spotted an opportunity to design a new tool using VISI software, which helped drive the school’s PPE production rate to up to 8,000 parts a day.
Rutland Plastics’ Technical Manager Carl Martin explains the school originally asked the company to 3D 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 3D printed product and modified it in VISI 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 their Mazak VCN 530C CNC machine with toolpaths created through VISI’s extensive CAM functionality. The process from taking in the initial 3D design, through turning it into a mouldable product, and finalising the mould tool, took less than a week.
When the two-impression mould was setup on their 80-tonne Engel moulding machine, both parts of the headband were formed from a medically accredited polypropylene every 24 seconds 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 front line NHS staff and key workers at hospitals, doctors’ surgeries, care homes, specialist schools and mental health institutions.
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 fighting 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. “That device allows doors to be opened and closed without having to touch the handles – particularly important to stop the spread of Coronavirus,” says Carl Martin.
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.