The Head Box from Donite

A sophisticated thermoformed plastic box, which will help in the prevention of disease transmission to clinical staff and other patients.

A very simple idea evolved into a superior advanced manufactured product.

How it works?

The piece of protective equipment known as the ‘Head Box’, sits neatly over a patient’s head allowing a medical practitioner such as an anaesthetist and two assistants, to work on a patient when intubating them or connecting them to a ventilator.

During this procedure, it is normal for the patient to expel a spray of large and small droplets. In medical circles, this is known as an aerosol generating procedure and if the patient has COVID-19, then this could increase chance of airborne transmission.


This has been developed by Donite Plastics with the assistance of a number of stakeholders including Clinical Engineering Innovation at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, a consultant anaesthetist from the Western Trust and Cambridge based voluntary engineers.

Maintaining perfect clarity was a big challenge using Donite’s normal vacuum forming process. Michael Knight, Donite’s managing director’s solution was to invent a new process: a sort of hybrid between vacuum forming and free dome blowing.

Several versions of the design were initially drawn up as CAD models and discussed by the team. Features were added, like side arm holes for assistants and a bungee strap to hold drapes in position. Some prototypes were then manufactured which were tested on medical simulation mannequins both in Northern Ireland and in Cambridge.

Donite is continuing to develop improvements by working on reduction plates, so that the ‘Head Box’ can fit any size of hospital bed and creating a new improved version of the plugs to seal up the arm holes when they are not in use. Full production is commencing.

Simplicity of Design

From the start we knew we wanted to form the device from a single piece of plastic so there would be no joins or sharp corners, to make it easy to clean and disinfect.


The part also had to be crystal clear at the places where the clinician would be looking through it at the patient.


A device that would sit over a patient’s head, whether in a ward or an intensive care unit which would allow the medical practitioner to work on the patient, but also to protect them and the patient when carrying out procedures.


Donite Plastics is Northern Ireland’s leading industrial thermoforming company and has been operating since 1981. The company works across various sectors including agri-tech, aerospace, public transport (namely the bus and coach sectors), construction and material handling (in particular crushing and screening), medical and film and television.

Clinical Engineering Innovation (CEI) is a team of engineers and scientists embedded inside Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. CEI aims to identify unmet clinical needs and translate these into innovative medical technologies and processes, to benefit patients, staff and the wider health economy.

This collaboration has meant that all the right people with the right expertise were proactively engaged to create an item of protective equipment which will undoubtedly save lives.

What they said:

Maighread Ireland
Clinical Engineer with Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge

"We have been moving at a very fast pace to develop a protective 'Head Box' so that our clinicians, medical doctors and patients will have the benefit of an extra layer of protection whilst carrying out aerosol generating procedures.

Normal PPE must still be worn, but when dealing with a virus like COVID-19, it is vital that medical staff are made to feel as safe as possible. We have also had enquiries from other teams interested in using the 'Head Box' for other applications within the hospital."

Dr Madalina McCrea
Consultant Anaesthetist currently working in the Western Trust

"Six weeks ago Michael and I were discussing a plastic box with a few holes in it. I am surprised and delighted at the way the project has gathered momentum. I really think the ‘Head Box’ is going to help clinicians, like myself, to get some peace of mind, knowing that we are doing all we can to protect ourselves and our patients in this new world of COVID-19. I also think the boxes would potentially be useful for other surgery, not necessitating an anaesthetist or airway manipulation; or for patient transfers from one ward to another."

John Loveluck
Cambridge based Voluntary Engineer

"There have been similar items used successfully in Asia but the manufacture method used by Donite improves the usability and functionality of the design."