Case study

A new Covid Collaboration with the NHS and Riverside Medical Packaging

During the pandemic, our research engineers have been working with local NHS trusts and a Derby-based SME, Riverside Medical Packaging Ltd, to design and manufacture face shields for healthcare staff caring for patients with Covid-19.

As well as supporting the national effort to combat the virus, this collaboration is helping to establish a resilient local supply chain for personal protective equipment (PPE) and furthering our knowledge about what makes an optimum face shield.

This project is another example of the University’s civic engagement with our community, businesses and essential services, at a time when it is so vital to work together to confront this crisis.

How we helped

After being approached by the University Hospital of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust, researchers from our Institute for Innovation in Sustainable Engineering (IISE) designed and produced both single-use and reusable visors. These are compliant with the Grade 1 Medical Device standard (EN ISO 166/168) and can be mass manufactured for use in the short-term.

Riverside Medical Packaging has collaborated with us to manufacture the face shields. They have enlisted the help of other local suppliers to source some of the component parts and so a local supply chain has been established.

This has been a mutually beneficial relationship: our University has benefitted from the company’s experience with product approval and business and manufacturing practice, while Riverside has benefitted from our rigorous testing and user evaluations of various face shields, including their own ‘DispoShield’ design.  

Clarifying face shield standards

While developing prototypes, the team at IISE found that while certain requirements were clearly defined in the standards — such as the shield’s ability to resist droplets of liquid — others were not; for example, the “one size fits all” requirement for the single-use face shield. 

IISE developed new mechanical testing protocols for the components, to identify designs and materials that delivered the best balance of all the competing needs: protection and compliance, the universal sizing, comfort, and packaging restrictions. Our human factors researchers are also carrying out user evaluation by NHS professionals with the support of our Health & Social Care team.

The University’s research team at IISE is working to publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals, with the aim of informing an amendment to existing publicly available standards for PPE. Research in this area continues, and IISE is still developing new test methods to ensure PPE is suitable for more of the healthcare population. IISE are also continuing user trials to evaluate the various design options.

For further information or to discuss working in partnership with us, please contact our Business Enquiry Team on +44 (0)800 001 5500 or