Engineers lend expertise in COVID-19 fight



L-R: Dr Theo Lim, Nathan Oo and Dr Steven Hammer

A group of biomedical engineers are working together to manufacture vital supplies for frontline NHS staff as the enormous impact of the covid-19 pandemic continues to be felt around the world.

Production of protective face shields began at the Edinburgh campus this week with the aid of 3D printers and highly-specialist industrial laser cutting machines.

The tremendous effort is being led at Heriot-Watt University by academic and technical staff that include Dr Steven Hammer, Nathan Oo, Dr Theo Lim and Dr Michael Crichton. The team has already received a number of requests from hospitals, care homes and GP surgeries for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and are working with health authorities to reach those most in urgent need. The team can even use the technology to manufacture components for ventilators if required.

Our university has a unique mix of skills and equipment with experts in medical technology, engineering design and manufacture.

Dr Michael Crichton

Dr Michael Crichton and Dr Theo Lim from the School of Engineering & Physical Sciences, are helping coordinate the Heriot-Watt effort alongside engineers at other universities who are leading similar projects.  

Dr Crichton said: “We’ve all shared concerns about the impact COVID-19 is having on health workers and patients. Our university has a unique mix of skills and equipment with experts in medical technology, engineering design and manufacture.  We all want to play our part and we’re sharing expertise with colleagues across Scotland so we can use our expertise more effectively and rapidly deliver what the NHS needs.”

In total, 12 3D printers and two laser cutting machines are being used at the Edinburgh campus as part of the ambitious project, with the aim of producing 200-400 face shields each week. These supplies with then be distributed amongst health centres, nursing homes and hospitals free of charge.

The project has already been recognised by the NHS who praised the efforts of the academics as well as by the University Principal, Professor Richard A. Williams, who said: “No one is untouched by the current crisis, and I’m delighted to see our expertise and equipment being put to use to support the NHS.

“We have substantial medical technology and analytics skills at Heriot-Watt and we are collaborating with the wider university community in the UK and internationally on practical research, policy development and supporting government initiatives to beat this virus.”  



Craig McManamon

Communications Officer