A team of biomedical engineers at the University of Cape Town (UCT) have been working on a variety of biomedical devices, including easy ways to make face shields using household items. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

UCT engineers create face shields using household items

CAPE TOWN – A team of biomedical engineers at the University of Cape Town (UCT) have been working on a variety of biomedical devices, including easy ways to make face shields using household items.

This was in response to the Coronavirus crisis.

The face shield named, the ViZAR, is among the first of the team’s Covid-19 solutions to have been approved by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority. 

The ViZAR acts as the first line of defence between the user and any infectious, airborne particles and offers protection against harmful aerosols, and prevents possible cross-contamination from users touching their faces.

It’s the collaborative postgraduate researcher Matthew Trusler and Associate Professor Sudesh Sivarasu from the Division of Biomedical Engineering together with Dr Stephen Roche of the UCT Division of Orthopaedic Surgery, Professor Salome Maswime, Dr Tracey Adams of the UCT Division of Global Surgery, and Saberi Marais from UCT Research Contracts & Innovation.

Making a ViZAR requires materials like an overhead projector transparency, elastic, foam and double-sided tape. All in all, a simplified DIY mask can be made according to the UCT ViZAR specifications with materials costing no more than R10. 

To ensure maximum comfort for the user, the team focused on user-centred features, such as a shield transparent enough to prevent claustrophobia, foam lining along the top of the visor that conforms to the user’s forehead, and establishing the perfect length and width of elastic to minimise pressure.

Since being approved, the team has already manufactured over 13 000 of these ViZARs – 2 000 ViZARs to Groote Schuur Hospital, 5 000 to the Western Cape Department of Health, and 500 to District Six Community Health Centre.

“Our team’s philosophy has been to collaborate closely with other innovators in an effort to create technologies that are appropriate to our African context,” said Sivarasu.

 

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