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Covid response

Personal Protective Equipment

Ensuring safe PPE and supporting new manufacturers

PPE has long-established standards and test guidelines, and in some cases CE marking. If the equipment is to protect other people, not just the wearer, then is must comply with the medical devices directive which has more stringent requirements. During the COVID-19 pandemic new manufacturers of PPE were established and existing companies turned their manufacturing capabilities to PPE. In addition, schools, universities and other organisations with 3D printers produced head bands for the face shields.

NPL worked with new suppliers to fast-track prototypes, test them and then improve the design. This ensured that the new, better-designed products got through the testing process first time and received certification. NPL also provided testing guidance to other manufacturers and hospitals, and liaised regularly with Notified Bodies (NB), which were extremely busy with PPE testing. 

During the COVID-19 crisis there were issues around false certification and misleading information about PPE, as well as production from companies with limited experience. NPL helped the NHS to assess PPE and make informed decisions on accepting or rejecting donated equipment. 

Innovative testing 

NPL also created ‘test heads’ for testing new face shield designs, both our own and for other organisations. These rigs tested against critical aspects of the ISO 14683 standard and BS EN 149, and helped new manufacturers to test their products prior to formal testing and CE marking by NBs. They also provided additional data on how well items performed, rather than just a simple pass/fail, to help manufacturers to develop better PPE. Face mask ear bands were 3D printed by NPL, with wearer comfort being the priority.

NPL North of England provided consultancy to companies, often SMEs, to help them understand the standards. They also worked with the PPE Make team at BEIS to share information and maximise production of safe equipment.

We are also involved in the determining whether PPE could be effectively cleaned and re-used and specifying the cleaning process and protocols. This involved looking at changes in material properties, and hence performance, during and after cleaning, particularly due to chemical effects.

Impact during COVID-19

  • Working with companies to increase their understanding of the standards and guidance on PPE
  • Supporting the Notified Bodies to maximise their testing capability and efficiency
  • Helping to grow domestic PPE manufacturing capability
  • Helping to bring novel designs, low cost alternatives and new materials to the PPE market
  • Ensuring safe products were available and being used  

Working with UK companies

Protecting Heroes

NPL worked with Protecting Heroes, a not-for profit Community Interest Company, which was focused on the rapid production of high-quality face shields. We assisted with the design and production of demonstrator items, as well as ensuring the product complied to the applicable testing requirements EN 166, EN 168, EU 4016/425, and received CE certification. NPL set up a packing, quality assurance and distribution facility for the face shields at our Teddington site, staffed by NPL volunteers. The face shields are amongst the most highly rated in the world and frontline clinicians say they are the best and most comfortable they have ever used.


Skyrora is a private rocket company which is developing the next generation of launch vehicles for the small satellite market. During the COVID-19 pandemic Skyrora developed a 3D printed design for a face shield. NPL supported Skyrora by giving guidance on full testing and the CE certification process. NPL used its 3D printers in Teddington, Strathclyde and Huddersfield to boost their manufacturing capacity, so that they could rapidly assemble and deliver face shields to care homes in Scotland.

Supporting PPE manufacturers

“NPL have been an invaluable source of knowledge, expertise and contacts, supporting us greatly as we pursued our coronavirus project. NPL have helped us to operate confidently in what is a critical and highly technical area, enabling us to achieve our project in the minimum timeframe.”  
Caroline Faulkner, Director, Faulkner Moulds Limited

“I have recently been in touch with NPL at their Huddersfield University campus office when I was looking for advice regarding the testing required for the face shields my company was wishing to produce for use during the Covid-19 pandemic. The advice they gave me has been invaluable.” 
Nigel Coates, Managing Director, Leeds Vacuum Formers


“After one short conference call to capture our requirements, NPL were able to return testing simulation results to us within 48hrs.  This helped us expedite the design process, gave us greater confidence of the expected outcome and enabled us to progress the relevant approvals much quicker than anticipated.”
Neil Clarke, Head of Ideas & Innovation, Gripple

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Contact our Customer Services team on +44 20 8943 7070