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ROLI's Pandemic PPE Project

Producing PPE for London charities from our Dalston arches

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Volunteers at Plan Zhero wearing face shields we made as part of the ROLI PPE project

During lockdown we all started working from home. For some of us that meant our design and engineering work had to be paused. We missed the thrill of drawing designs, using our laser cutter, producing prototypes, and imagining the future of our products. So we decided to use our expertise to make face shields.

Luckily one of our investors, Horizon Ventures, donated some funds for the materials, and so, once the lockdown eased, we got to work.

We started by researching various materials and preparing our designs. We decided to make the shields out of highly reusable, 100 percent recyclable plastic, with a silicone elastic band.Because of the global shortage of PPE, the materials weren’t easy to come by, but once they arrived, we quickly got to work. We spent two weeks in production, working 8-hour days cutting plastic and silicone, and producing 300 shields a day.

Like everything at ROLI, it was a team effort. We did it all in-house. Rami and Yukyung led on design and production, Kon and Sharina cut kilometres of elastic band down to size. Once we’d finished producing the units, Dan and Joe came with their cars to pick up the boxes and drop them off to all corners of London.

Our first thought was to donate to the NHS, but by the time we’d produced our shields the NHS was well supplied, so we reached out to smaller charities running food banks or visiting vulnerable people in their homes. So far we’ve supplied 1,300 units with a plan to produce 900 more. The responses we received were hugely gratifying, and made us feel like we’d played a small role in the collective effort to combat this terrible pandemic.

We’re back to making keyboards now, but our foray into PPE making was deeply satisfying – a great use of our collective skills, teamwork, and that laser cutter.