In the light of the world shortage of surgical masks and personal protective equipment, Singapore's Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) has created a face shield for personnel on the front line of the fight against Covid-19.
Called FaceProtect+, the face shield is adjustable and reusable and protects users and the people they interact with against accidental fluid splashes and droplets, the agency said yesterday.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, in a Facebook post, said: "The face shields were developed... in double-quick time to address the potential shortage of masks."
Singapore is not dependent on any country as the face shields are produced locally, he added.
Still, the DSTA has started working on an improved model based on feedback, he said.
The agency has teamed up with medical device manufacturer Racer Technology to produce the face shields in Singapore.
They are now being supplied to public agencies including the Ministry of Defence, Singapore Armed Forces, Ministry of Manpower and Land Transport Authority.
"The FaceProtect+ has an adjustable frame that caters to different face sizes, including bespectacled wearers, making it more ergonomic to use," the DSTA said.
The FaceProtect+ has a wider, longer and thicker visor compared with commercial off-the-shelf versions. Hence, it covers more of the user's face, making it more resilient for use outdoors where winds may be strong.
It can be washed with soap and water after each use and reused. The visors can be replaced if damaged through wear and tear.
Senior engineer Shawn Chew, from DSTA's National Security Programme Centre, said: "With the heightened demand for PPE (personal protective equipment), our engineers started to design and prototype a cost-effective, lightweight and reusable face shield that offers an extra layer of protection for our front-line workers."
The team developed the first 3D-printed prototype of the face shield in one week and produced the first batch in another four weeks.
This included "soliciting users' input, modifying the design and working with the manufacturer to finalise the tooling set-up and material selection", said Mr Chew.
He added that the DSTA is working with Racer Technology to meet any "essential demands" that are received. "We are not at liberty to reveal costs and production details, but we managed to keep costs low due to economies of scale and local production," he said.
Infectious diseases expert Leong Hoe Nam of Rophi Clinic in Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital said the face shields provide basic protection, but have to be supplemented with surgical masks for full effectiveness against the coronavirus, since droplets can get under the shield.
"It helps with the first line of defence, which is the splash of saliva and respiratory secretions... (And) because it blocks the splashes, it can extend the lifespan of the N95 or surgical mask," said Dr Leong.