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Coronavirus Kent: Dad from Ramsgate using 3D printers to create protective visors for key workers

A 3D-printing enthusiast from Thanet has turned his hobby into a lifeline by printing visors for people classed as "key workers" during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Phil Hathaway, of Ashburnham Road, Ramsgate, found himself out of work due to the ongoing crisis, and decided to help in any way he could.

Mr Hathaway, pictured with son Ben
Mr Hathaway, pictured with son Ben

Having owned 3D printers for a number of years, he spent his spare time using them to make cosplay items and tanks for war games.

But after stumbling across a video on YouTube from an enthusiast in America using a blueprint to make a cheap protective visor, he got to work creating his own.

The headband for the visor is printed from a digital blueprint, and the visor itself is a sheet of acetate holepunched and clipped to the headband.

Mr Hathaway is a self-employed driver delivering cars to auctions across the country, but had his work put on hold as the nation was put into lockdown.

The 58-year-old said: ""When I first started making them I was wondering if people would want them and whether they would they be good enough.

The masks Mr Hathaway is able to create with his 3D printer
The masks Mr Hathaway is able to create with his 3D printer

"I've given them out to a few NHS workers and got feedback to say they're working fine, and that was the inspiration to keep going.

"We've got a lot of people crying out for them, and I want to help as many people as I can."

Taking to Facebook with his project, Mr Hathaway shared a Just Giving page to help him accrue the cost of supplies to keep creating the anti-droplet face shields.

His modest £100 target was reached quickly as many people donated in £20 increments, a reaction which surprised him.

He said: "I was quite overwhelmed really, I didn't realise there was such a demand."

The current total of donations on the Just Giving page is £597.

One of Mr Hathaway's 3D printers
One of Mr Hathaway's 3D printers

With the money raised, Mr Hathaway has purchased an additional printer to speed up production, and might go as far as buying a fourth to make it quicker to produce a greater number of the shields.

He plans to supply as many of the masks to key workers across Thanet as possible, including people in care homes and supermarket workers.

People have been so impressed by the project that Mr Hathaway has had calls to supply them further afield, to places like Canterbury and Ashford.

Despite this, he said the demand is more than high enough in Thanet alone, but urges other hobbyists to take up the mantle and start making the masks themselves.

He said: "What we really need is more people in other areas doing it."

"We've got a lot of people crying out for them, and I want to help as many people as I can..."

With the time each headband takes to print, the hobbyist can only make around 30 masks a day with access to two printers.

He added: "It's a drop in the ocean really, but the more people we can get interested in doing it the better."

He has shared the blueprint online, so anyone who has access to a 3D printer can manufacture them too.

Mr Hathaway estimates the cost for each mask is around 40p, meaning a large quantity of them can be produced very cheaply.

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