Back in April, we reported on the LEGO Group producing eye shields for health care workers, looking after patients with COVID-19 in Southern Denmark. In my ‘day job,’ I work as an anaesthesiologist. The availability of Personal Protective Equipment for health workers has been a topic of conversation amongst my colleagues for a few months, and I was excited to hear of the development. While we have had little to worry about in Australia, I realise that PPE remains an important issue in many parts of the world, as supply chains get re-established.
A group of Recognised LEGO Fan Media – including Brickset, New Elementary, Hispabrick Magazine, Brickfinder, as well as myself – had the opportunity to put some additional questions to the team responsible for the production of these face shields….
Where did the idea for this come from? An employee or senior management… or was it a request from a health service or government?
Mikkel Schildknecht Hoé, a Senior Equipment Manager in our Engineering department came up with the idea after hearing that there was a desperate need for safety equipment for (healthcare workers treating) COVID-19 in Denmark. He approached the rest of his team with his idea for a visor and they started to trial production ideas. The design and quality was approved by local health authorities.
It sounds bizarre for a toy company to be making PPE but we forget TLG is ultimately a plastics moulding company with 70 years of experience! Was it much of a challenge to produce these?What was the most unexpected challenge that arose on this project?
We thought that one of the biggest challenges would be time. Usually it can take up to six months for new moulds to be made and we wanted to meet the demand quickly. But time actually turned out to be a great motivator. More than 100 members of staff offered to help with the project so we could get visors into production quickly, some working seven days a week and over the Easter holidays to fast-track production. Everyone wanted to do their bit to help our frontline health workers.
The quality of plastic that TLG use for elements is extremely high – other companies even purchase the waste plastic TLG produce because its quality is still so good for their purposes! – did you use the same super high quality plastic for the masks or was that an unnecessary expense for what is essentially a disposable item?
We used the same materials as we do in our other elements. We also made sure that the visors produced meet the same stringent quality standards as all other LEGO elements.
Was it necessary to give these design IDs and element IDs, like regular building elements have, for production purposes? Yes the visor elements have been given unique design IDs to help with production processes.
Are they actually stamped with ‘LEGO’?
What adjustments had to be made to the usual production process to create the masks?
We were able to produce new moulds and convert a number of existing moulding machines in Billund and Nyíregyháza.
Have there been more orders internationally? How many of the global factories are these being produced in?
Our priority was to first help the Danish Health Service as we could ship visors quickly. We have also begun making the visors in Nyíregyháza and recently donated 65,000 to doctors working in the region. We have also donated visors to health workers in Mexico.
Would the LEGO Group look to make this available to other countries who are battling the virus? Or can the country’s health ministry contact The LEGO Group to purchase some? Would the mask be for sale to the public eventually? Are there plans to manufacture other protective items for general consumption like surgical masks?
Right now, our focus is on providing visors as a donation for frontline healthcare workers (e.g. hospital staff, staff in nurseries, care homes, dentists) in our local communities in Denmark, Hungary, Czech Republic and Mexico.
We were unable to establish for certain as to whether or not the eye shields are ‘in system’ but I suspect that they are not. Otherwise, they have their own element IDs, are made of materials already used in LEGO Elements, and are being distributed in the region of the factories of manufacture. They have been made to specifications requested by the local (Danish) health authorities, and assessed as fit for purpose. To be able to get a concept up and running in a few weeks is an amazing feat, and the pandemic has certainly seen creative, ‘can do’ people perform all sots of amazing feats.
I’d like to thank Jordan Paxton from the AFOL Engagement team for facilitating contact with the face shield team, as well as the ambassadors for Brickset, New Elementary, Hispabrick Magazine and Brickfinder for their contributions to the Q&A. These face shields will not be available to the general public, and at presenter only being be made available to the healthcare workers to whom they are intended.
In the meantime: stay safe, wash your hands, keep your distance and