In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Foster + Partners designed a general-purpose prototype face visor for frontline health workers, suitable for cleaning and reuse and specifically aimed at fast mass production. The design templates and material specifications are available as an open-source design asset to encourage both designers and large-scale manufacturers in investigating the potential of digital and laser cutting machines as an alternative to 3D printing technology.
The prototype visor is made from three components: a visor made from 0.5mm optically clear PETG, an interlocking soft PP headband, and a surgical silicone rubber head strap that ties the two together. These can be cut on digital flatbed cutters in under 30 seconds and the elements can be assembled in under a minute. With a single cutting machine, the design team were able to cut and assemble components for 1,000 visor masks in a day, representing a reduction of days in the time taken to produce 3D-printed alternatives.
The visors can be produced and assembled or flat-packed and distributed in large quantities in a short span of time. An important advantage is that the visor can be easily disassembled, cleaned, sanitised and reused, addressing the shortage of raw materials and the long-term sustainability of the design. These prototype visors were delivered to a number of London hospitals for field testing in April 2020 and the design received CE certification in June later that year.