The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith’s College of Applied Science and Technology is running its fleet of 3-D printers to produce parts for plastic face shields in response to a nation-wide need for personal protective equipment (PPE).
Derek Goodson, lead faculty for computer graphic technology and animation technology at UAFS, began testing prototypes nearly two weeks ago after local attorney Cheryl Anderson, whose husband works in both River Valley local hospitals as an emergency room physician, shared a need for such protective equipment.
The 3-D elements of the face shields being printed at UAFS follow PRUSA’s open-source protective face shield design for 3-D Printers. Goodson has manufactured one component, which will be used in conjunction with PETG 0.5mm transparent sheets and elastic banding to complete the shield. Anderson is managing the collaborative effort by several local businesses to make the completed pieces possible.
“They made the file open source after going through iterations with different departments of health overseas to come up with a model for the face shields,” Goodson explained. “Protecting medical personnel is one of our primary concerns, and to be able to help them is a really important thing for us.”
One hundred twenty of the 3-D printed pieces had been passed along to the next stage of assembly as of Saturday evening, April 4. Each of the 3-D printed pieces takes about four hours to print, and 14 machines are running at a time in the UAFS lab.
Monday morning, April 6, small batches of fully assembled shields were delivered to Mercy Fort Smith and Baptist Van Buren for field testing.
“We’re very excited to be able to help,” said Goodson. “We’ve seen a lot on the news about the lack of PPE for health care professionals, so anything we can do to help and to alleviate that threat, we were happy to do.”
The printing lab is disinfected regularly, and Goodson wears gloves while printing to avoid contamination.
According to PRUSA’s website, “In reaction to the acute shortage of protective wear for medical personnel in the current pandemic situation, we have quickly developed and started to mass produce protective face shields ... This shortage is global, and everyone with a 3-D printer can help! 3-D printing communities across the world became a massive driving force in the effort to produce protective wear for those who need it the most.”
Anderson reached out to 3-D printers across the region, but few have the capacity of the UAFS lab. “We have folks all over who are printing these, contributing masks, because clearly there’s a need,” she said. Holding back tears, Anderson explained that if her husband were in the ER, possibly facing a situation where he needed to reuse the n95 masks meant to protect him, she would do everything possible to protect him and all the other medical providers who care for those most in need.
“It’s a community effort,” she said, “and it’s so nice that we live in a community where everyone wants to help.”