An image showing the mask parts Baxi is making for NHS workers

Baxi Heating makes mask parts for NHS workers

Design engineers Baxi Heating’s Preston HQ are swapping the use of their 3D printers from making prototype boiler components to making frames for protective face masks for NHS workers.

3D print hobbyist Sid Lovatt, who usually works in the retail trade but is currently furloughed, is 3D printing frames for full-face visors – and Baxi Heating’s Alan Peel, product design team thought his team could get involved too. Alan says: “After speaking to Sid, 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,” he adds.

As well as 3D printing mask parts for the NHS in UK, Baxi Heating is also able to help colleagues who work for Baxi in Spain, another country that is being hard hit by coronavirus. The design of the Spanish face mask is different from that used in the UK, as Alan explains. “The Spanish version of the mask support frame was four times higher than the UK version and I couldn’t fit as many in the stack.

“However, using my new-found programming skills, I managed to maximise the 3D printer footprint build and produce 16 components in a 48-hour period using our second, smaller printer.

“Just a skeleton staff of two or three engineers are working in R&D at any one time now, with the majority of the team working from home, so my colleague in the office, Joseph Folorunsho, product design engineer, is removing the mask parts from the printer and packing them up to be shipped to Sid in Harrogate and our R&D colleagues at Baxi Spain in Barcelona.”

David Pinder, CEO of Baxi Heating UK and Ireland, says: “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 (and international) camaraderie persists long after the current emergency has ended.”

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