EAST Lancashire craftsmen at BAE Sytstems Samlesbury factory are 3D printing face shields for front-line NHS staff battling the coronavirus pandemic.

The firm has already given thousands of the pieces of protective equipment to hospital in the North-West and elsewhere in the country.

Now workers are the Ribble Valley military aircraft factory - who normally produce parts for combat planes including the Eurofighter Typhoon - are 3D printing parts for a new type of face shield.

The Samlesbury products have been specially-designed by its engineers with fewer head straps to reduce inconvenience and stress on the skulls and ears of doctors and nurses.

Meanwhile, the company is sourcing 120,000 additional face shields through is supply chain to distribute to the NHS.

The new initiative comes on to of BAE Systems participation in the consortium producing 10,000 new ventilators for hospitals across the UK.

The firm's military aircraft factories at Samlesbury and Warton are producing electronic sub-systems for the breathing devices and already assemble life-support systems with oxygen masks for warplanes.

It plans to deliver more than 120,000 face shields to the NHS this month and then produce thousands more of the new 3D-printed design.

So far 20,000 have gone out including 700 to the Burnett Edgar Medical Centre in Barrow-in-Furness for distribution to the towns GPs, 5,000 to Blackpool Victoria Hospital, 1,000 to Royal Preston Hospital and 1,000 to the Worden Medical Centre in Leyland to be shared with other local surgeries.

Andy Schofield, the Samlesbury-based director of manufacturing technology for BAE Systems Air Division, said: “We have already delivered more than 700 to the GP near Barrow and we are now delivering them to NHS Trusts in Lancashire.

“We are producing them at a rate of up to 180 per day, in total we aim to send out 10,000 single-use clear plastic visors with smaller number of head straps.

“Using additive manufacturing technology means we can repeat the exact same build standard on thousands of parts, guaranteeing the right level of quality.

“Everyone has been hugely touched by the work of NHS workers up and down the country and we are pleased we are able to make even a small contribution to help keep them safe.”

Dave Short, BAE's technology director, said: “Colleagues from our technology team and air sector joined forces to design and manufacture our first 3D printed face shield in less than 24 hours. We’ve already delivered the first batch."