WED Program Coordinator Uses 3D Printers to Make Face Shields for Healthcare Facilities

It seems that every story in the news right now surrounding the COVID-19 epidemic is disheartening and scary. This is not one of those stories. This story is about the helpers.

WVU Parkersburg’s Workforce and Economic Development Center answered the call for help when local hospitals announced their concern for a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).

“We, the Workforce and Economic Development (WED) division, learned of a couple who were using their 3D printers to make face shields for those in their community. WED Director, Michele Wilson, learned that there was a shortage locally in basic PPE equipment. We knew we had the capability to provide something to those in need, and this was our opportunity to do just that,” WED Program Coordinator, Logan Mace said.

Specifically, Mace is printing face shields. Face shields are not the masks themselves, but a protective shield for splash and splatter that is usually worn over a mask. The frame is the 3D printed portion and then the clear shield portion is laser cut out of PETG plastic. 

“It takes two to three hours to produce them. So, we have 10 3D printers working around the clock to manufacture them. The shield cuts in about a minute and we provide the elastic cut to length. We do leave them unassembled so they can be sterilized when they get on site,” Mace said.

Once sterilized, the components are designed to snap together easily allowing for a fully finished product in just a few minutes. The original design comes from The Czech Republic. 

“Prusa Research created the model for everybody to download for free to use in their communities should they need it. It’s as simple as setting up a 3D printer and printing them,” Mace said. 

According to Mace, Joseph Prusa released the design after he realized that other communities could benefit the way his community had from the shields. The shields are approved in The Czech Republic and are approved in the United States per the decision of individual hospitals. 

“In times of crisis, the CDC suggests using whatever you can – and that’s where we are now,” Mace said. 

Currently, the Makerspace at WVU Parkersburg is preparing an initial run of 100 shields, but Mace expects that number to continue to increase. After initially posting a video on Facebook of the shields, multiple people within the medical industry reached out to Mace about providing the shields for their practices.

“We will continue to manufacture as many as we possibly can,” he said. “It could be popular and should be, but there are legal hang-ups – is it safe, tested, etc. Ideally, the medical industry will provide people with proper models as long as communities are willing to help. This is a chance to see makers coming to the aid of their communities.”

Mace’s work was met with many thank yous for his efforts in protecting those on the front line of fighting this virus, but he wants people to know that it’s a whole line of people behind the scenes stepping up to help.

“Even though I’m one of the ones making these things, it’s a lot of people involved beyond me. Even my part in it, anytime I can provide a service that is useful, it’s invigorating and rewarding. I’m happy to help where I know that I can,” Mace said. “Pay attention to what the professionals are telling you to do – keep your distance and stay safe, but reach out. Your community, regardless of where you are, needs your reinforcement.”