The fight against the COVID-19 outbreak has those in the medical field working around the clock, but a shortage of sanitary supplies in hospitals and clinics puts them more at risk for infection. Fortunately, people across the nation have been working to provide personal protective equipment (PPE), like masks and face shields to those on the frontline. The local efforts of doctors from UConn Health and engineers, scientists and researchers from Storrs, along with a group of engineering and nursing students from Fairfield University, are among those contributing to the cause.
“We are looking to donate our face shields to anyone who is in need, specifically hospitals, healthcare workers, nursing homes, and clinics,” Caroline Smith, a sixth-semester nursing major at Fairfield University, said in an email. Alongside eighth-semester biomedical engineering major Lilliana Delmonico, she has been leading a project with their school’s engineering and nursing students to donate 3D printed face shields to healthcare workers in the area. “The shields are clear plastic sheets made out of PVC. They wrap around a 3D printed headband which fits on almost any head size, and has an ‘extension’ of sorts on the forehead to allow for an N95 mask or surgical mask to fit under.”
The reusable face shields are being distributed in packages of ten, produced by eighth-semester biomedical engineering major Evan Fair and eighth-semester computer engineering major Andrew Jobson with Fairfield University’s MakerBots and Taz6 3D printers.
“We are hoping when we have a steady production and supplies, we will make an average of 650 a week of face shields to distribute to healthcare workers,” Fair and Jobson said in an email describing the shield production, which they accomplish while maintaining social distancing and sanitation procedures. “As of right now, this number fluctuates depending on our supply shipments.”
Fair and Jobson stack the 3D models of the shields, which they redesigned from the printing file from Verkstan in Solidworks, so they can print up to 16 masks at a time with the MakerBots printer and up to 32 on the Taz 6 printer. After separating and cleaning the headbands, they punch holes in the plastic sheets so they can be assembled onto the headbands and packaged together. Smith and Delmonico process the face shield requests, keeping track of expenses, materials, shipment information and more to try and track every detail of the project.
“We do this to follow trends and hope we will be able to have a steady flow of production and supplies,” Smith said. “We hope our project will continue to help those who are in need of PPE. We love to hear feedback and to explore different ideas to improve our design [and] production…We have a strict sterilization protocol we follow when we make the shields but we are looking into UV sterilization to improve our process.”
Smith started the initiative after hearing of the Montana Mask Initiative printing face masks in Annapolis, Maryland through her family’s connection with the project leader, Steve Saint-Amour from the Eclipse Group. After contacting Delmonico, Dean Heist of Engineering and Fair and Jobson, who were able to access the school’s 3D printers, she hopes the project will help support those in the healthcare field, which has received an “overwhelming amount of support from the community.”
“Within about a week of sharing our project, we received various requests from hospitals, nurses, nursing homes and clinics,” Smith said. She explained that Jobson’s personal touch of including the Fairfield logo onto the headpiece serves as solidarity and support for healthcare workers from the Fairfield community. “We are so excited to see other people passionate about our project. We hope to inspire others who have 3D printers to put them to good use in these difficult times.”
Delmonico, who has set up a GoFundMe page to go towards materials for the project, describes the special response from Fairfield’s alumni.
“Many of them want face shields just to represent the school they love and their efforts, which I think is really special,” Delmonico said. A little over a week after sharing the project, they received more than half of their GoFundMe goal of $5,000. “I am very grateful to be working on this project with my friends and be able to make such a positive impact.”
The project’s Facebook page has more information for those interested in requesting face shields or donating funds. For more information, Delmonico can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and Smith at email@example.com.
“Each shield might only make a minor impact on the one person that receives it,” Fair said. “If the four of us are able to produce and distribute 650 face shields per week, suddenly the sum of all these small changes add up to become something substantial in our community.”
Hollie Lao is a staff writer and the social media manager for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.