Shield Wiltshire

A Coronavirus Response Fund grant has enabled Shield Wiltshire to make and supply thousands of plastic visors free to frontline workers.

Shield Wiltshire was set up by Annette Alchin in response to the pandemic and is now a network of 38 3D printer owners and volunteers. In their first four weeks they made and delivered 7,000 visors to Wiltshire and Thames Valley Police, care homes, pharmacies, undertakers and Erlestoke Prison.

Mrs Alchin, who owns Miles Recruitment, said the idea to begin making visors came to her after she saw a Facebook advert selling them for £7 each. She said: “I woke up in the middle of the night and though ‘my brother could make them’. He’s got a 3D printer and he’s a real techie. Within two days he’d found a plan and made one.”

She posted a picture of the visor on Facebook and got an immediate response. “I had a paramedic doctor saying they wanted to order some and then it escalated from there. I had the Devizes Covid group on and then the others started contacting me. I was absolutely taken aback by how many people were contacting us,” she said.

"We were suddenly faced with hundreds and hundreds of orders and I thought ‘what can I do?’ I could either throw my hands in the air and say ‘I can’t do this’ or I could find people that could, and I chose the latter.”

She used contacts built up over her 30 years in recruitment to find people with 3D printers to help fulfil the orders. 

“Now we’ve got 38 people in the team and they are all wonderful people scattered all over Wiltshire. None of them are taking a penny in wages or expenses for making these visors. We have delivered our 7,000th visor and we have orders for 6,400 units outstanding.

“We have got a team in North Wiltshire with members in Chippenham, Calne, Corsham, Warminster, Compton Bassett, Blacklands and Cherhill.  We have a Swindon team at PST in Swindon who have three employees working for us.

“There is such a community spirit out there, people want to help and there is such a demand for these things. It takes 45 minutes to print one visor, so if you consider the time and effort these wonderful people are putting into that it is quite phenomenal.”

Among the wide range of volunteers is 18-year-old Tim Durnford from Devizes, who delivers the finished visors on his skateboard, and 71-year old Tim LeMare from West Ashton inTrowbridge. He said “Now I cannot go out I was  looking for something to do. I learnt how to use my newly-acquired 3D printer and was pointed to Annette. I began making five visors a day and now I can do 60.”

One volunteer who is a Dyson scientist has helped refine the design so that it can be made more quickly. Teachers at Lavington School have also volunteered their help to use a laser cutter, which produces the visors far more quickly.

Orders for visors come via social media or through the group’s website. A  logistics system then allocates work to the printer nearest to where the order has to go and raw materials are dispatched to them. Either the printers or volunteers then make the delivery or more volunteers make the drop.

Mrs Alchin said: “The biggest challenge has been finding the funds for raw materials. The units themselves cost 61p but with 6,400 units ordered I am now worrying about how I am going to supply these guys with the materials to keep making them so the Wiltshire Community Foundation grant will really help us.”



Grant awarded: