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Boise State engineering group is 3D printing face shields with help from the community

3-D Printing Protective Gear
Posted at 5:25 PM, Apr 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-03 15:43:55-04

BOISE — In recent weeks hospitals around the world have reported significant shortages on personal protective equipment as they help fight COVID-19.

"We started to see that face shields, the protective equipment for the healthcare workers, was becoming most important for healthcare workers because they were the ones getting the sickest the fastest, and they were running out of supplies," said Boise State engineering professor, Amy Vecchione.

That is when Vecchione knew it was time to step up and help by getting a group together to start 3D printing face shields in the Albertsons Library Makerlab.

"Predominately, we are working to build a face shield that is going to help the healthcare workers in the field when they are working with patients," said Vecchione. "The shield combined with our sewn face masks will protect them from any fluids hitting their face."

Each shield mask takes about three to four hours to make and costs roughly three dollars. But, with the hundreds of parts donated continuously by the community, they can create 50 to 60 shields a day.

One of those donors includes the Northwest Nazarene engineering department, who is 3D printing the headbands for the shields.

"All of our students are now learning in a remote environment, and so our machines were sitting idle, so we wanted to put them to use and help out with what was going on," said NNU engineering lab manager, Brice Allen. "I downloaded the filed from BSU transferred them to our system and now come in every 3 to 4 hours to swap out print jobs and reload new ones."

Doctors and nurses are currently testing the prototypes live in the field right now, so when Idaho does have a shortage, the shields will be up to standards and ready to use.

"We are on our eighth prototype now, and we are trying to make them as close to what they would buy as possible," Vecchione said. "They give us feedback on our designs, and then we change the designs to meet their needs."

Vecchione encourages anyone with a 3D printer to help. To start printing, sign up at makerlab@boisestate.edu, and they will send you the files as well as where the drop-off location is at.

"We're here to be a help for our community and so by doing this, we could just take the stuff we already have on hand to help," said Allen. "These won't accumulate unless a lot of people pitch in, and it's important for everyone to help those who are short on resources right now."