Design engineers at the Preston-based site of boiler manufacturer Baxi Heating have been swapping the use of their 3D printers from making prototype boiler components to frames for protective face masks.
Having seen an article about 3D print hobbyist Sid Lovatt, normally working in the retail trade but currently furloughed, who is 3D printing frames for full-face visors for NHS workers, Alan Peel, product design team leader at Baxi Heating, thought his team could get involved too.
Alan is currently self-isolating, and working from home, but he is still managing his team and is able to programme the 3D printers remotely.
He said: “After speaking to Sid Lovatt, I set the 3D printer at 11pm, to print overnight. My concern was that printing one frame at a time would take a very long time and there would be nobody around at night to remove the frames from the printer.
“I needed to try and find a method of printing much larger batches of parts, so the changeover was on a daily basis or even twice weekly if possible. I downloaded some software to my home computer and taught myself how to use it. Using this, I was able to stack up a single batch of 25 components in a single build and set them printing at midnight on 1 April.
“The following night, I pushed the boundaries further by stacking them more tightly and also interlocking them to maximise how many would fit in the 3D printer footprint. It took many attempts and another late night, but I finally managed to increase the capacity in one build from 25 up to 110 components.
“I was able to share the design files with Sid, so he would be able to increase his build capacity also.”
David Pinder, CEO of Baxi Heating UK and Ireland, added: “I am really proud of how our colleagues have found ways to pitch in and help with this unprecedented situation. The R&D team have worked on this fantastic project because they were passionate about helping. Colleagues from other parts of the business are using their skills in other ways – for example, our contact centre agents, based in Warwick, have all been set up to work from home, so they can continue to help our customers. And our field service engineers, to whom we have provided appropriate PPE so they can carry out their work safely, are carrying out free of charge boiler repairs for NHS workers.
“This great adversity has brought out the very best in people and I hope that this feeling of national camaraderie persists long after the current emergency has ended.”