Lateral Flow Tests and 3D printers!

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Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service (LFRS) was the first Fire and Rescue Service to roll out lateral flow testing at their sites and every fire station in the county will be providing lateral flow tests to staff which are vital in identifying people who are asymptomatic.

Burnley Fire Station was a trial station for the lateral flow testing and upon arrival Station Manager John Costello, who has been leading the rollout, realised that the test tube holders the Service were expecting had not been delivered due to a national shortage. John mentioned to the crew that were on duty that this threatened to hold up the project. Crew Manager Andy Coulton, who, away from LFRS, owns a van conversion company, has 3D printers as part of his equipment for rapid prototypes and offered to make some test tube holders as he had the capacity to do so.

The test tube holders Andy made were just what was needed and he made enough to supply to all other stations. The holders are made out of PLA plastic which is a biodegradable plastic and he has made 400 so far. With LFRS leading the way with LFT the work we were doing soon became noticed by partners. Andy has since then had requests from Blackburn with Darwen council, the MOD and most recently Lancashire County Council have commissioned him to make a further 1,000! It has also been mentioned to the local MP that this work gets rolled out nationally! Without the work Andy is doing on his days off the lateral flow roll out in Lancashire would not be the same.

Not only this but back in the first lockdown Andy was once again putting his 3D printers to work by making visors for the NHS and Blackburn and Darwen Teaching Hospitals making approx. 1,200 in total.

Andy said: “I have the time and the equipment so it makes sense for me to get involved. It is no trouble and I am happy to help towards the local and national effort. Our motto at LFRS is “making Lancashire safer” so I am only continuing this ethos on my days off, keeping our frontline workers safe and helping towards putting an end to the virus with the lateral flow testing. The partners who have ordered my items have been directed towards The Fire Fighter’s Charity to make a donation for the work I am producing.”

Station Manager Costello said: “we were getting to a point where we were in a really good place doing the lateral flow tests but not having a key component was slowing the work down. When Andy mocked up the holder for the vials it was a perfect solution. He assures us that is isn’t a difficult job for him to do and has willingly manufactured hundreds not just for us, but for other partners, all in his spare time. Just another great example of LFRS staff coming together and working hard behind the scenes to deliver and protect our communities!”

Andy refutes any praise or money from this work saying it gets him out of home-schooling his two children on his days off! Well done Andy!