North Devon has been rallying around to help protect key workers from coronavirus.

People have been putting their skills and equipment to use by making personal protective equipment (PPE) for those who need it.

Instow resident Sam Heaton has been able to co-ordinate a group of people to produce protective visors.

The 43-year-old found a template for his 3D printer and after sending a picture of his work to a friend, he soon had a request for 30 of the masks for a local GP surgery.

That production has snowballed, with more people getting on board to help. Sam said the group has produced more than 1,500 visors for various health and social care settings.

Sam Heaton modelling one of the protective visors.Sam Heaton modelling one of the protective visors.

Cody Marchant at Torrington-based Bionica Systems offered his services, bringing CNC technology which can make the masks much quicker than a 3D printer.

Sam said: “Word got out and the phone started ringing. I set up a fundraiser and raised £5,000, bought four more printers with the intention of giving all the visors away for free and to give the printers to local schools afterwards.

“I didn’t think we would get to 1,000 and we have smashed through that. My daughter was printing things like plastic mermaids before this and now she’s making good stuff that is creating value.

“It’s nothing compared to what frontline staff are going through. Hopefully in a few weeks we won’t have to make any more.”

Sam Heaton's daughter Rosie modelling one of the protective visors.Sam Heaton's daughter Rosie modelling one of the protective visors.

Bideford College teacher Stan Pyle was one of those who offered to help. He and other school staff have been laser cutting protective visors.

He said: “I got wind of Sam’s 3D printing and offered to help. Clearly my responsibilities as a teacher are still there to set kids work, but it feels good to be doing something else that is useful.

“I started off over Easter and once I set work for those at home I’ve got something where I feel I can make a difference.

“We’ll keep producing it as long as people keep asking for them.”

An example of the PPE being made at Bideford College.An example of the PPE being made at Bideford College.

It’s not the only work going on at the school, with staff making face masks, adaptors for them and putting scrubs together as well.

Great Torrington School staff are also among those putting together protective equipment.

Teachers are busy making more than 1,000 protective visors that meet NHS safety standards for distribution, going to places such as local care providers and wards at North Devon District Hospital.

Led by teachers Fay Fisher, Annie Sparrow and Tara Neve-Scott, the school managed to crowdfund more than £1,500 to make the visors in just two days, and now has a core team of school staff assembling them.

Great Torrington School has been making protective visors for key workers.Great Torrington School has been making protective visors for key workers.

“It says everything about Torrington that we got that amount of money in two days. We’re at capacity now and we’ve had to beg people to stop giving us money,” said Annie.

“So many staff and people in the community have given to the Just Giving page, and big thanks to Stan at Bideford College who has been really supportive.

“Fay suggested we did it and she hasn’t stopped. Getting the materials has been tricky as plastic is in short supply.

“We’ve supplied some to individual carers who do community care – it’s really hard for them as they either can’t get hold of the equipment or it’s in such massive quantities that they can’t afford it.”

For updates on the school’s PPE production - check its Facebook page.