Donegal social enterprise using state-of-the-art digital technology to produce visors for frontline workers

Carndonagh's Spraoi agus Spórt's ‘visor army’ taking the fight to Covid-19

Donegal social enterprise using state-of-the-art digital technology to produce visors for frontline workers

Carndonagh's Spraoi agus Spórt is providing visors for frontline workers

A Donegal social enterprise is playing a key role in the fight against the deadly coronavirus pandemic by manufacturing laser-cut face shields or ‘protective visors’ that can be worn by those working on the frontline in community nursing homes, supermarkets, retail and construction businesses across Inishowen and further afield.

Using state-of-the-art digital technology available in its ‘FabLab’ in Carndonagh, Spraoi agus Spórt is producing visors that are proving invaluable to frontline workers.

Spraoi agus Spórt plan to scale up the onsite production of their protective visors at its FabLab to upwards of 500 per week – as government restrictions are eased for local businesses and in the event of a potential second wave of Covid-19. 

A FabLab – or Digital Fabrication Laboratory – is a facility where people can turn their ideas into new products and prototypes, using digital design, 3D printers, laser-cutting and other advanced digital manufacturing technology.

As Eamon Durey, Spraoi agus Spórt FabLab Project Manager explained: "FabLabs are underpinned by two key concepts - access to technology that unlocks the ability to produce prototypes and personal items, plus links to a global network of like-minded people.  

"Within hours of the realisation that there was a problem in accessing PPE, makers across Europe and beyond were developing and sharing designs that could be fabricated quickly and cheaply in local community-based FabLabs like ours in Carndonagh.

“Importantly, this response has highlighted the ability of agile, local ‘makerspaces’ to meet the needs of their communities not only in times of crisis but also in terms of promoting self-reliance. Indeed, local needs can be best served by local solutions."

Co-founder and CEO of Spraoi agus Spórt Helen Nolan added: “It is clear from the national response to the lockdown that local manufacturing of PPE such as visors has played a critical role in protecting frontline workers within local communities.  

"It is also key that a community like ours in Carndonagh, at the periphery in terms of national and regional infrastructure, has the capacity to respond quickly and directly to local demand – rather than finding ourselves at the end of a very long supply chain.

“Indeed, the capacity we currently have at our FabLab in Carndonagh has a clear practical impact on the direct protection of our local frontline workers and in slowing or preventing the spread of any potential infection.  

"In addition, our ability to ramp up production of visors if needed is important in terms of instilling confidence within the community – providing people with the reassurance that we have a significant level of resilience and self-sufficiency available to protect local people working on the frontline.

“An example of this is when we recently delivered a consignment of our protective visors to Simpson’s Supermarket in Carndonagh which was warmly received by staff."

Indeed, as staff members Caoimhe and Niamh said: “These visors are exactly what we need – and we feel much more protected when we are wearing them.

"They are also so comfortable to wear and it’s great that they are being produced locally in Carndonagh.  Thank you Spraoi agus Spórt!”

Scaling up

Helen Nolan also says that the FabLab in Carndonagh plans to produce and distribute more visors to nursing homes, local businesses and frontline workers in the coming weeks.

 “With the easing of restrictions there will be a much greater demand for PPE and protective visors, for example from retail shops, opticians and hairdressers – as well as a continuing need within our healthcare sector,” she said.

“We are therefore working towards having a fully resourced FabLab in place that can produce upwards of 500 visors per week. Indeed, through our operation we will be able to instantly respond to the future social needs of our community – as evidenced by the capability of our FabLab to produce high-quality visors within days of the coronavirus outbreak.

“It has also been inspiring to see our FabLab staff and volunteers respond so selflessly to the needs of frontline workers with such inventiveness, creativity and community spirit during this deadly pandemic.  Indeed, they can be best described as our very own ‘visor army’ who are taking the fight to Covid-19," he added.

Critical role for FabLabs

Helen Nolan concluded: “Our rapid response in terms of PPE production of protective visors also underlines the critical role for FabLabs going forward.  Social distancing is likely to be a feature of life for us all in the medium term and in this context local and ‘hyperlocal’ production becomes ever more important as communities seek to maximise local sustainability.  

"Indeed, our FabLab production facility is also able to apply a wide range of other uses – and communities that have invested in such facilities, and have developed the local skills to exploit them such as ours, are at a significant advantage in terms of being able to produce PPE and better protect their community during Covid-19. 

“I also strongly believe that the production of PPE is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the innovative things that FabLabs can produce in the future – not only during the coronavirus crisis but in the post-Covid era.

“It is therefore critical that the EU, Irish government and public at large continue to support manufacturing facilities like the FabLab in Carndonagh – which is not only helping to create local jobs and add value to existing local businesses but is also ensuring the long-term sustainability of our social enterprise.”

The introductory offer for the protective visors manufactured at Spraoi agus Spórt’s FabLab is €5, which includes a visor and four refills suitable for use with the clip-style frame.  Spraoi agus Spórt will also donate one visor to a frontline healthcare worker for every visor purchased by a local business.

If you are a local firm, nursing home or other facility who would like to find out more about the face shields / visors or place an order please contact Spraoi agus Spórt on 074 937 3303 or email support@spraoiagussport.ie

If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Donegal Live editorial team any time. To contact Donegal Democrat and Donegal People's Press, email editorial@donegaldemocrat.ie To contact Donegal Post, email editor@donegalpost.com To contact Inish Times, email editor@inishtimes.com.

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