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IT Carlow designers and scientists producing face shields and hand sanitiser for front line health workers

The college may be closed to students, but there's a hive of positive activity taking place.

IT Carlow, closed to students during the Covid-19 pandemic, has become a workhouse for their teams of pharmaceutical academics, laboratory technicians and product designers to produce much needed supplies for front line health workers.

The Design+ technology gateway team at the Institute, which collaborates with industry in product design and concept validation, has been using its skills to design and produce face shields for healthcare workers, while a pharmaceutical team has created and produced its own hand sanitiser for those on the front line of the pandemic.

Billy House, a product designer for Design+ at Institute of Technology Carlow, initially used two large format 3-D printers at the Institute to print headbands for face shields but switched to his own design in order to increase production.

Billy House of Design+ modelling a face shield made by the team at IT Carlow

“Due to the size of the headbands, 15 components was the most we could get on the machines combined, which had a 37-hour print time”, says House.

“After two days, we had only produced 15. I had a conversation with my colleague Jack Gregan and, after drawing up a few sketch models, we came up with a quicker way ourselves using the headband template, clear micron binding covers, polystyrene plastic, closed cell foam, elastic, staples, hot glue and a hole puncher. The resulting design is simple and reusable owing to the closed cell foam.”

The team are now able to produce 70 in one day and pre-cut and additional 90 for easy assembly. Design+ say they will happily produce what they can to help protect frontline workers.

“We’re using the skills we have to help the real heroes, who are the frontline healthcare workers”, commented Mr. House.

Team from IT Carlow Dept. of Science and Health making hand sanitiser.

90 litres of hand sanitiser ready to go

Separately, a team of pharmaceutical academics at Institute of Technology Carlow has used the Institute’s laboratory alcohol supply to make hand sanitiser to a formula created by pharmacist Nicola Cantwell and Dr. Brian O’Rourke, a lecture and researcher in pharmaceutical formulation.

The team, led by Dr. Emma Smullen and Dr. Guiomar Garcia-Cabellos, produced a 90-litre supply comprising alcohol, sunflower oil and hand soap as the key components.

The 65% alcohol is slightly higher than the 60% recommended by the WHO to ensure efficacy.

In addition, the Faculty of Science and Health has donated its supply of gloves, gowns and safety glasses to frontline healthcare workers.

“To the outside world, IT Carlow is closed but we are delighted to put the knowledge we have to the best possible use during this time of national crisis in order to help in any way we can”, said Nicola Cantwell.

“IT Carlow is also coordinating with all of the colleges running pharmacy technician and pharmacy assistant courses and the IPSA – Irish Pharmacy Students Association – to share details of any requests for help by community pharmacists.”

“I would like to thank our pharmacy technician students and graduates who have all stepped up to help and insisted on staying on in their placement pharmacies, or moving to other ones, to help out as needed. Many of our graduates have also increased their working hours as a result of the collaboration, with groups such as Total Health and Allcare.”

Pharmacies who need assistance can contact us at [email protected]”, said Ms. Cantwell.