Laser remote technology offers the ideal solution for the fast and flexible processing of a wide range of materials, as well as for the efficient cutting of textiles and thin foils. With a cutting speed of up to one meter per second, the laser beam of the CO2 laser is deflected by rapidly tilting mirrors and directed over the material to-be-processed with maximum dynamics. The process can be performed quasi-simultaneously in a working field of up to one square meter. Fraunhofer IWS researchers have developed a laser cutting process based on this technology, which generates the transparent face shield "IWShield" within a single cut. This face shield meets high application requirements in terms of wearing comfort and sustainability and simultaneously separates waste products. Even though this solution is currently not yet approved as a certified medical device, it reduces the risk of droplet infection via the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and mouth.
Biocompatible, temperature resistant and light-weight
After a short development time the first prototypes of the face shield "IWShield" were generated at the Fraunhofer IWS multi-remote system "MuReA". The material used was mainly polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a thermoplastic material which is used for example in drinking bottles. PET is popular in industry due to its biocompatibility, temperature resistance and light weight. It is also excellent for disinfection, steam sterilization and is highly recyclable. The special concept of the "IWShield" is designed for several hours of use and guarantees a high wearing comfort. The variable adjustment possibilities of the head ribbons prevent slipping, while the overhead ribbon additionally relieves the lateral fixation. A hook and loop strap connects the ends between head and forehead ribbon. The special design ensures a sufficient distance to mouth and nose to prevent fogging. The face shield consists of five individual parts which can be assembled in a few steps according to head shape and the purpose of use and is easy to clean. Depending on the material thickness, the shield weighs only 50 to 100 grams.
First shields already in practical use
During regular operation, the Fraunhofer IWS laser remote cutting facilities are used to research new joining techniques and multi-material constructions and to develop industrial solutions particularly adapted to customer requirements. Interdisciplinary cooperation, modern laser system technology and the long-term technical expertise, acquired from many years of experience with laser machining processes, enable the Fraunhofer IWS to react efficiently and flexibly to market requirements within very short time. Several hundred face shields are already in practical use for tests at medical facilities - with consistently positive feedback. At the same time, intensive discussions are taking place with interested cooperation partners from Germany and abroad so that the "IWShield" can soon go into series production. Customers are expected to include not only medical and care facilities, but also schools, day-care centers, hairdressers, beauticians and sales outlets. A certification for medical products is being aimed for. The research and development project was supported with funds provided by the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft's internal programs (grant number Anti-Corona 062-600017).
Interest in practical test or cooperation
Are you interested in testing the "IWShield" in practice or in entering into a cooperation? Please contact Annett Klotzbach, group manager for bonding and fiber composite technology.