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Volunteers from Industry and Education, make up to 5,000 Face Shields per week


28 April 2020

A community of volunteers from across industry and education in the Mid West have begun producing up to 5,000 face shields per week for nursing home workers and other frontline staff.
The need for PPE, especially in the nursing home sector, inspired the group of engineers, scientists, 3D printing enthusiasts and educators to create the Aula Max PPE Hub, which is co-ordinated and run from Limerick Institute of Technology and based on the Benchspace Network model.
The headbands for the shields, known as Aula Max Visors, are being produced from 3D printers in homes across Clare, Limerick and Tipperary, in schools, and on LIT campuses. 
Thousands of headbands are then collected by members of Bike Marshals Ireland and transported to LIT for Pictured are Bike Marshalls, Colm O’Regan, Denis Morgan, President, Seamus Walsh, Tony Guerin and  John O’Brien ready to collect and deliver the finished product from LIT. Picture: Alan Placesanitation and assembly. 
Already 15 nursing homes and care services have contacted the Hub for supplies, and that number is expected to increase significantly over the coming days.
The Aula Maxima in LIT’s Moylish Campus has been set up as a production operation for cleaning and assembling the face shield packs for the nursing homes and other facilities. This element of the work is carried out by teams of volunteers from LIT and local industry. Some “shifts” take place in the evening, when volunteers have finished work or study for the day.
President of LIT Professor Vincent Cunnane said, “What we do best in LIT and in this region is collaboration.  This is a regional effort facilitated by LIT, with the community and voluntary sector, industry, second level and higher education coming together to meet a local need.  This is help for the Mid-West by the Mid-West.
“The Aula Max Visor is really a symbol of co-operation in a time of adversity, it’s a ground-up regional product and is only possible because of the relationships that exist between people and organisations here.”
Mary Quinn, Deputy Principal, Villiers Secondary School has been co-ordinating with local nursing homes and health care providers for the Aula Max PPE Hub. 
Ms Quinn said, “Sourcing PPE for frontline health care workers is a global issue. In my experience, there's a huge demand for PPE at the moment, especially for face visors, and particularly in the nursing home sector. So many of the nursing homes I have been in contact with have a huge need and are really looking for visors on a regular weekly basis.”
Kevin Geary, Engineering Associate Manager Zimmer Orthopedics Manufacturing Ltd said, “Like minded individuals in the Limerick region were brought together by links with Benchspace in Cork and we have expanded the network through professional contacts and friends. The Engineering Team in Zimmer Biomet and other international companies are volunteering our free time and engineering experience to help setup the hub in LIT. We needed space to assemble the face shields and our relationship with LIT helped make this a reality. Materials donated by Zimmer Biomet and other multinational organisations in the region have allowed us to successfully setup the Aula Max Hub that will see the distribution of the face shield material to our Front Line Heroes throughout the wider region. It is fantastic to see the determination from individuals to help people who they have never met.”
Programme Leader in Precision Engineering at LIT, Department of Mechanical and Automobile Engineering, Ciaran O’Loughlin said, “We plan to produce between 4,000 and 5,000 face shields every week and donate them to nursing homes and other health care facilities as required. This network is adaptable to meeting future PPE needs should they arise in the future.”
Tony Guerin, Bike Marshals Ireland and Co-ordinator Controller of Transport for the Aula Max Hub Project  said, “When we call to a person's house, we phone in advance. They bring out the product and we have our bike situated so they can load our bike directly. Then we bring the product to LIT for sanitisation and completion. Once completed we pick up the finished products and deliver them to where they are needed most. We are proud to work along side the other volunteers.”
A spokesperson for Johnson & Johnson Vision Care in Limerick said, “Johnson & Johnson are delighted to be participating in this community initiative, in partnership with local industries and education bodies, for all our healthcare workers, by providing this valuable PPE and enabling the fight against this virus to continue successfully.”