Engineering support for the coronavirus response

Across our business people are giving up their free time to support their communities during the coronavirus crisis.

James Williamson, based at Clunie Power Station in Perthshire, is a Renewables Engineer in SSE Renewables, he looks after some of the maintenance and refurbishment projects across our hydro generation fleet.

During the outbreak, he has been using his spare time to 3D print face shields for frontline workers across the country. Here he talks about his efforts.

It’s fair to say I’ve always been passionate about engineering and finding out how things worked. I joined SSE around four years ago as part of their Graduate Engineer scheme and since then I’ve been based in SSE Renewables’ hydro business.

The average age of our hydro fleet is around 65 years old, but we are constantly working to ensure that it continues to help meet the energy requirements of today as Britain’s biggest battery. My job is to project manage the maintenance and refurbishment of some of these incredible power stations.

There’s isn’t really a typical day in hydro. We are often out at different sites across Scotland depending on what work needs to be carried out. Normally at this time of the year we would be kicking off project work and conducting inspections at our sites. However, in order to keep our employees safe, we have scaled back from our normal workload and are only carrying out essential works.

Colleagues across SSE Renewables are working incredibly hard to safely keep our sites operating and generating low carbon electricity during this time, but I wanted to find another way I could help during the crisis.

I’m lucky enough to own a 3D printer at home and have been 3D printing for around three years now. I first used a printer whilst at university for prototype development and have made a lot of interesting things since then - including a scale model of SSE Renewables’ Tummel Bridge Power Station hydro turbine.

I was inspired by the work of groups like 3DCrowd UK, a voluntary coordination hub that provides instructions and designs for 3D printed face shields and runs an ordering portal for healthcare professionals. So, together with a small team of 3D printing enthusiasts, we signed up to 3DCrowd UK to work to support efforts to print face shields for frontline medical workers in the UK.

We’re using every moment we have and whatever material we can get our hands on to print the much-needed face shields. So far, I’ve made over 150 face shields and I’m working to produce between 10 and 12 shields each day.

We’ve been fundraising for materials to help make the face shields as well as hopefully raising enough to purchase more 3D printers to help our efforts and already we’ve seen how willing our friends, colleagues and employers are to support us. SSE has helped us purchase four new 3D printers to spread out across the team and I’ve also managed to source two more from a local to school to use just now while schools are closed.

We’ve been able to print pretty much non-stop in the last week, with over 400 face shields we made being delivered to healthcare workers who need them.

We’re putting our 13 printers to work just now, but when all this is over we will distribute the 3D printers that have been donated to local schools or clubs that could utilise them for STEM-based activities and get other people excited about the technology we are so fascinated by.

We want to help make sure no frontline healthcare worker has to go to work without sufficient PPE, so if anyone has a 3D printer and would like to help please visit https://www.3dcrowd.uk/.  If you’d like to help us directly, we’ve set up a GoFundMe page to help support purchasing materials for us to use to make the masks: https://www.gofundme.com/f/3d-print-4-healthcare-workers

We’re incredibly lucky to have these machines to hand and we’re delighted we have been able to use them to help out during the outbreak and we’ll continue making shields until the crisis is over.