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Published on April 07, 2020

Face shields from 3D printers: Cape volunteers step up

Cape Cod Makers

Medical workers need face shields to protect against airborne respiratory droplets that could transmit the coronavirus, COVID-19. Right now, demand is far outpacing supply – and that’s where some local tech-savvy volunteers are coming to the rescue.

Last week, Michael Looney learned that Cape Cod Healthcare was running low on the shields.

“I reached out to my network within the Cape Cod Makers with this challenge,” said Looney, who is director of career and technical education for Mashpee Public Schools. “Over the past three or four days, we’ve been collaborating online every day to create a design that was going to be both effective and fairly quick to make with a 3D printer.”

Looney’s team, which includes teachers from the Bourne Public Schools and Cape Cod Community College, started with a design by Budmen Industries, a New York-based company that makes the Buildini 3D printer.

“We modified the design to be more effective using commonly found materials in our local supply stores,” he said. “We kept tweaking and did about 16 different design changes to make it the best we could. Then we got approval from Cape Cod Hospital to put it into production.”

Looney’s team is making a curved plastic visor that wraps around the wearer’s forehead. A rubber band is used as a strap to hold it in place. Padding to make it more comfortable is made from three-quarter-inch weather stripping that was donated by Botello Lumber and Mid-Cape Home Centers. The shield itself is a transparency sheet that is normally used for an overhead projector.

“What we did with the redesign was to make it so replacing shields is as simple as having a three-hole punch and another transparency sheet,” Looney said. “You can just take a dirty one off and put a fresh one on.

“What we’re doing on our end is printing the visors, adhering the weather stripping and elastic band to the back, and then delivering them to Cape Cod Healthcare.”

Monomoy Regional Middle School in Chatham has also joined the Cape Cod Makers effort, according to the Cape Cod Times. Under the direction of STEM teacher Matt Barnes, students are using 3D printers to produce the face shields.

The shields will be used by healthcare providers who are directly caring for patients who either have or are being ruled out for COVID-19, according to Kevin Mulroy, DO, chief quality officer for Cape Cod Healthcare.

“We are so grateful to Mr. Looney and all the volunteers who have coordinated and undertaken this effort,” Dr. Mulroy said. “It is this kind of ingenuity and resourcefulness in the face of scarcity that will help us manage and put an end to this crisis.”

Looney’s 3D printer can make a visor in about 90 minutes and he has about 10 friends who are also running their printers night and day. More volunteers are needed to achieve his goal of making 5,000 visors.

“There are many people throughout Cape Cod who purchased a 3D printer for a home hobby,” he said. “We need them to help us make visors, the one part of the face shield that isn’t readily available.”

If you want to help by making 20 or more visors, go to the Cape Cod Makers website to download the STL files.

“Let us know how many you can print out, and we'll make arrangements through email contact to either pick them up or you can drop them off,” Looney said.

The MassHire Cape and Islands Workforce Board is helping to cover some of the costs of the plastic used in making the visors. For those interested and able to donate, Cape Cod Makers has started a GoFundMe page to raise money for spools of filament, the product used within the printers to create the visors.

Photo Credit: www.capecodmakers.org