Across the sector staff are not only working all hours to keep the lights on and water and gas flowing – but also giving up their free time to help others.

This includes James Williamson, an engineer for SSE Renewables, who is using his spare time to 3D print face shields for frontline workers across the country.

In his day job the 26-year-old is based at Clunie Power Station in Perthshire, where he looks after some of the maintenance and refurbishment projects across the company’s hydro generation fleet.

James would normally be busy conducting inspections on sites. However, in response to the pandemic, SSE has scaled back on workloads and is now only carrying out essential jobs.

James says: “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.”

Along with a small team of fellow enthusiasts, James signed up to 3DCrowd UK, a voluntary coordination hub that provides instructions and designs for 3D printed face shields and runs an ordering portal for healthcare professionals.

He says: “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.”

James and his associates are currently using 13 printers but when the pandemic begins to settle, they plan to donate them to local schools and clubs.

They have also set up a funding page for anyone wanting to support the purchasing of materials.

Keeping Us Connected is a new series from Utility Week in which we highlight the achievements of employees across the utilities sector in getting the UK through lockdown. To nominate a member of your team for recognition, please email

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