Established in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 crisis, the COVID Alliance comprises of over 50 project partners from key Irish engineering and manufacturing sectors who came together to volunteer their services to the Health Service Executive (HSE). Design Partners’ team members took part in this fantastic initiative collaborating with companies from the engineering, design, and manufacturing sectors.
This informal grouping of organizations who provided services primarily on a pro bono basis was organised into a series of volunteer work streams, all of which were focused on meeting the needs of the crisis. A critical concern was the HSE struggled to source protective goggles and could not purchase anywhere near enough for their needs. More than simply a design challenge, the key factor was to turn ideas into reality and get critical PPE into our frontline workers’ hands quickly.
Design Partners set out to design, engineer, and partner with a manufacturing solution for protective goggles. A collaboration with MeHow Medical Ireland was the key to unlock production, and at breakneck speed we fulfilled the HSE’s request to design and produce goggles in Ireland, significantly reducing the need to source and import from abroad. In this respect, it is an important step towards self-sufficiency, as opposed to participating in an international bidding war for PPE with all the associated risks.
As healthcare professionals wear this kind of protective equipment for many hours the BioVue Goggles were designed with comfort as the number one priority. The goggles’ perimeter hugs the contours of the face creating an important seal even if the user is wearing glasses. To maximise comfort a lower shore-hardness (softer) material than normal was chosen as that spread the pressure more evenly across a wider surface area, reducing any pain points on the face. For this to be achieved successfully, the teams had to develop new assembly techniques during the production stage accommodating the softer material. Additionally, prototyping and testing various strap fabrics, textures and dimensions helped improve wearable longevity and adjustability for the users.
The goggles were engineered in such a way that the structural, ribbing details associated with PPE of this type were removed, allowing for easier cleaning within the healthcare environment. This also resulted in a cleaner, more iconic aesthetic. MeHow Medical Ireland worked on the tooling, moulding and manufacture of the units including introducing an internal antifog coating which is a critical element of sealed goggles.
Sustainability became a central tenet of discussion throughout. Being highly sensitive to price ensured that, for everyday medical disposables, Ireland can compete with the far-east in an environmentally friendly way by eliminating agents, the need for shipping, and financial and environmental costs. HSE has approved the design of the Biovue goggles with an initial order of 250,000 units. The goggles will go straight to the healthcare front line and will be especially relevant for emergency medicine.