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Suffolk Business Awards: Time to thank the local heroes who fought against Covid-19

PUBLISHED: 08:30 31 July 2020

Just some of the completed face shields in UEA's New Science Building laboratory. Picture: UEA

Just some of the completed face shields in UEA's New Science Building laboratory. Picture: UEA

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The Changing Lives Special Recognition Award gives everyone a chance to vote for businesses that stepped forward to help the pandemic response – businesses like Bosch Lawn and Garden in Stowmarket.

David Parfrey of Norwich Research Park, sponsors of the Changing Lives Special Recognition Award   Picture: Joe LentonDavid Parfrey of Norwich Research Park, sponsors of the Changing Lives Special Recognition Award Picture: Joe Lenton

Nobody could describe 2020 as a normal year for business, which is why this year’s Suffolk Business Awards features a unique award: the Changing Lives Special Recognition Award, which is sponsored by Norwich Research Park.

This is an award for companies that reacted to the coronavirus pandemic by rolling up their sleeves, asking what they could do to help their communities and making a real difference in the fight against Covid-19. It’s an award that will be driven by our communities, with anyone able to nominate deserving businesses and a public vote to select a short-list for the judges to consider.

“The Covid-19 pandemic was as devasting as it was unforeseen. But out of crisis emerged heroes, who have been selfless in the help they delivered,” says David Parfrey, executive chair of Norwich Research Park.

One of those companies stepping up to help fight the virus was the global technology and services company Bosch – though in this case it was very much a local response from the team at Bosch Lawn and Garden 
in Stowmarket.

Andy Barber of Bosch Lawn and Garden, one of the team of seven who built face-shield components while also working full-time from homeAndy Barber of Bosch Lawn and Garden, one of the team of seven who built face-shield components while also working full-time from home

“Bosch might be a huge company but the way we work means Lawn and Garden is more like a local business,”explains Andy Barber, the company’s design thinking coach. “We could see that we could do something that would really help and we were happy to do it.”

A lot of the work in Stowmarket is R&D, with Andy helping the teams of designers and engineers develop everything from lawnmowers and hedge cutters to pressure washers and leaf blowers.

“We realised early on, even before the lockdown, that we might be in a position to do something for the greater good,” Andy says. We searched high and low for the right project. We even registered with the government to help produce ventilators.”

At the same time, Andy made contact with UEA, which was looking to produce face shields for the NHS. “We’re set up to do on-site prototyping using what you’d call a 3D printer, which we refer to as a rapid prototyper,” he explains. “These use FDM – fused-deposition modelling – which takes filaments of ABS plastics and builds them up in layers, based on a 3D CAD design.”

One of the rapid protoyper machines the Bosch team used to support the pandemic responseOne of the rapid protoyper machines the Bosch team used to support the pandemic response

The UEA had already agreed with the NHS what type of face shields it would provide, so the Bosch team ordered special medical-grade ABS plastics from their suppliers and found open-source CAD files for the appropriate components. The technical work was to “nest” the designs, interlocking them to allow the greatest possible number to be created at once on the rapid prototypers.

“There were seven of us involved with the project,” says Andy. “We were all working full-time at home and the site was closed, so we’d have to go in for this.” Each night, the team produced enough components for 50 face shields.

“It was very much a team effort. One engineer would go in to set a batch printing overnight. In the morning, another engineer would take them out of the machine and set them in a bath for half a day, to dissolve the support material and leave just the components,” he explains. “Then I’d go and collect them to deliver to UEA.”

From when the project started at the end of March to the final delivery on May 14, Andy clocked up more than 1,100 miles as he made 11 deliveries to Norwich – dropping off a total of 2,111 sets of face-shield components.

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“We went with the UEA project because it just made sense,” Andy concludes. “They were local and everything they produced was going back into the local services – the hospitals and care homes.”

It’s businesses like this, supporting our local communities, that the Changing Lives Special Recognition Award seeks to highlight. “Those people and organisations didn’t do it for recognition. They did because it was the right thing to do and they could do it,” says David Parfrey of Norwich Research Park. “We should now take the time to say thank you.”

For more information about the Changing Lives Special Recognition Award, click here.


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