Bath church becomes factory to help fight virus.

Like churches everywhere, St Michael’s Without in Bath won’t be open for those who want to bear witness during this – the most important weekend in the Christian calendar – but that doesn’t mean this building has not been busy doing its bit to help the community.

To address the urgent need for PPE to be made quickly to protect NHS staff and other frontline workers against COVID-19, a small team of Bath-based residents have set up an initiative in the empty nave to enable the mass-production of face shields.

The small group of friends, Edward Chudleigh, Steve James, Rachel Yuan and Rosie Nottage set up the organisation Foldall at the end of March. With a degree in industrial design engineering and 11 years of experience working at Dyson, Edward Chudleigh was the mastermind behind the production design. Edward harnessed his expertise in robotics and set about inventing the first face shield, FS Mk 1, working in his lab with 3D printed components.

A church in Bath, Somerset has opened its doors and transformed into a makeshift PPE mask production line for NHS workers.

To help with the delivery of the first models, the team brought in support from Edward’s fellow ex-Dyson colleagues who created 3D printed components at home. Jack Scott was also brought in to support as Production Director and within a week, through the support of donations, production is now so streamlined that the team is getting thousands of shields a day out to front line medical staff.

There has been a new design developed every 24 hours and the shields are now assembled using injection moulded rivets, FDA approved silicone and medical foam. The components are manufactured by third-party specialists, which has allowed production to grow, staffed by local volunteers. Additionally, these specialist manufacturing companies have been able to take 10 employees out of furlough because of this project.

Within a few days, production had already outgrown the mews factory the team had originally set up. The Church of St. Michael’s Without in Bath was then gifted to the team to be used as part of the production line as they continued to expand. By Friday 3 April the first dispatch had been sent to the NHS and frontline workers. 

Since Foldall went live:

  • 25,000 shields have been ordered
  • 5,000 have been shipped 
  • Production is growing to 5,000 shields a day
  • Our suppliers have been able to take 10 people out of furlough 
  • Donations have enabled us to bring the price of the product down by 30%
  • Shields delivered nationally 
  • Over 70 volunteers have joined the digital rota

Edward Chudleigh, Managing Director and Founder of the organisation Foldall, comments: “I saw there was a lack of PPE and felt desperate to do something. I came up with a prototype and worked with Steve to build a website, Rosie, Rachel and Jack joined the team and facilitated it growing really fast.  

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Edward Chudleigh, Managing Director and Founder of the organisation Foldall

The strength of our team and the kindness of donors and volunteers has meant we can get this vital PPE to the front line. Thanks to local businesses such as Freestyle, Roger Lewis and our council, to name but a few, we have a production line gearing up to deliver 5,000 shields a day across the country.

This is what engineering and innovation is all about.  There is a clear need and a clear solution, the cutting edge of production technology helps us to redesign the product swiftly in response to the frontline feedback.” 

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The Rev Roger Driver, Rector of St Michaels Without.

The Rector of St Michaels, Reverend Roger commented:

“St Michael’s has always reached out into the local community which it serves. Standing alongside the ancient Fosse Way into the city, it has ministered and served many people who have visited or been part of the residential community.” 

He kindly took some pictures for Bath Newseum as well.

“Here’s a picture I took from the safe distance of the mezzanine in the church. I would be grateful if you could make emphasis the building IS closed and the workers are coming into the building through a discreet entrance.

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In the picture, you can see them working at a minimum 2m social distance. That was how we were able to respond because they couldn’t find a place to work with space to achieve that. Because we had chairs they could be moved away to make space.

You’ll note the workers are suitably dressed as the face shields need to be made in a clean environment. “

Foldall is now calling on the wider public to support this initiative, which aims to work with the community to get as many face shields to the NHS as possible.

Anyone who wants to show their support or find out more can get in touch at: https://www.foldall.co.uk/