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True 'Black Country innovation': Firms answer NHS calls for visors amid coronavirus outbreak

Two Black Country firms and a college have answered urgent NHS calls to manufacture visors for frontline doctors and nurses.

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The first batch contained about 1,200 visors. From left to right: Neill Bucktin from Dudley CCG, Simon Boyes, innovation director at Thomas , Martin Kuziel and Martin Dudley (Thomas Dudley)

Thomas Dudley, Metallisation and Dudley College have teamed up to produce the face guards amid a shortage of personal protective equipment.

Thomas Dudley, based on Birmingham New Road, Dudley, is aiming to make 20,000 a week.

In true innovative Black Country and British spirit, the manufacturing firm has invented a new tool in order to mass produce the visors through plastic injection moulding.

Otherwise, it could make about four a day through 3D printing.

Company chairman Martin Dudley, who suffered with Covid-19 symptoms last month, said: "As a UK manufacturer that is proudly celebrating our 100th year in business, we are passionate about serving the local community.

"We have been delighted to help out on a not-for-profit basis to supply the NHS in this time of need."

Simon Boyes, innovation director, added: "As a business, we had already started looking into how we could play our part in fighting Covid-19 but Martin's illness really brought home the very real threat presented to us all by the virus."

Meanwhile Metallisation, based on Peartree Lane, Dudley, and Dudley College are producing a handful of face guards each day through 3D printing. Dudley College shared a blueprint for making the visors with Metallisation.


Stuart Milton, managing director at manufacturer Metallisation, said: "We have been going for 98 years. Back in the Second World War, we stopped normal production to make Spitfire parts.

"It is in our DNA to help the country out in times of crisis."

Face guards being made by Metallisation through 3D printing
An old notice at Metallisation which has survived since 1940

Dudley College has also donated all of its supplies of personal protective equipment - such as face masks, overalls and gloves - to Russells Hall Hospital.

It has also donated hundreds of calculators to prescribing nurses amid a high demand of the equipment.

College principal Neil Thomas said: "The College is at the heart of the community and is here to help - we are pleased to assist in any way that we can."

Dudley College tutor Dan Rudge with the college's 3D printer at his home. Pictured with his daughters Amelia, 4, and Georgia, 2

Black Country clinical commissioning groups approached the Black Country Chamber of Commerce for help in making "100,000s of visors", said Mr Boyes.

In turn, the business group spoke to local firms and organisations to see what they could do.

Visors from Thomas Dudley will be distributed among Black Country hospitals alongside a number of care homes.

The first batch from Thomas Dudley was delivered to Dudley CCG's headquarters at Brierley Hill.

The company will make the first 3,000 visors free of charge. After that, it will only charge the NHS to cover manufacturing costs and it won't be making a profit.

Neill Bucktin, Dudley managing director for Black Country and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group, added: "We are delighted to be working in partnership with Thomas Dudley and colleagues to enhance the supply of equipment to the NHS front line with face guards developed and made here in the best traditions of Black Country innovation."