A Marymount Professor is 3D Printing Medical Face Shields
The PPEs are reusable and created using an open source design. They're being sent to hospitals.
A Marymount University professor has established a network of volunteers to 3D print reusable face shields for medical professionals treating people with COVID-19.
Eric Bubar, a professor of physical science and astronomy at the university, usually spends his free time making 3D-printed prosthetics as part of Enabling the Future, or e-NABLE, a worldwide network of volunteer fabricators specializing in upper limb assistive devices. But a couple weeks ago, he switched to producing face shields using an open source design from Prusa Research.
“I started printing them, started reaching out to everybody I know that has printers, then they talked to people. They, and we, just spiraled from there and started printing as many shields as we could,” Bubar says. “The styles are all freely available online so anybody with a 3D printer can download the file to their printer and hit go.”
It takes about an hour to print a shield, he says, adding that between his three Prusa printers, he can make about 50 shields a day. So far, he and a volunteer have made about 400, while the rest of the network he oversees has produced another 100. The D.C. chapter of e-NABLE, which Bubar works with, is on track to ship about 400 shields this week. Bubar says he has sent most of his to hard-hit New York City.
The shields have two parts: a 3D printed headband and another piece that he likens to an overhead transparency that attaches to the headband.
“You can pop that off really easily, you can spray it down with Lysol and disinfect it,” Bubar says. “And then if you run out of shields, you can run out to Staples and buy a pack of transparencies and replace the shields very easily.”
He’s not sure how long each shield will last, but one doctor who received 20 of Bubar’s shields told him the supply would last him one month.
“Hopefully, this will start dying down by then and it should at least last them until the regular medical chain can catch up,” Bubar says.
The shields cost about $4 each to print and ship – money the volunteers were originally paying out of pocket. To help offset those costs, e-NABLE DC created a GoFundMe page. As of April 5, it had raised more than $11,000.
Bubar is encouraging others with access to 3D printers to join the effort. Matt Cupples, an Arlington Public Schools teacher, made arrangements to access the 3D printers locked at the school where he teaches and took them home to make shields.
“With the schools being closed for the year, us teachers were looking for ways that we could use our skills to help our community,” Cupples says. “We were already producing online content for our students and virtually meeting, but we missed the hands-on part of our jobs. This project keeps us connected as a learning community, keeps us busy and helps others.”
Marymount alumnus Philip Bui is also on board, as is Eric Malani, a current Marymount student and volunteer EMT, who is now printing shields from his 3D printer at home.
“Everybody’s going stir crazy inside and this is a nice little project to do,” Bubar says.
Want to help? If you are equipped with a 3D printer and want to pitch in, email Eric Bubar directly at email@example.com. The university also has set up a non-contact drop box outside the guard house at its main entrance off of North Glebe Road in Arlington, where volunteers can leave their 3D printed pieces to be paired with shields that are being laser-cut in bulk by Nova Labs volunteers.