The groundswell of support from maker communities around the USA and the world to 3D print face shields, or sew DIY cloth face masks, is making a difference for healthcare workers on the front lines battling COVID-19. Much of that work started in Washington State and the Northwest. At Edmonds College, a small team began working on its own version of a sustainable, durable face shield.
Thanks to the encouragement and support of Edmonds College President, Dr. Amit B. Singh, the college makerspace leaders at The Facility began work immediately on a sustainable personal protective equipment (PPE) design to test with area healthcare professionals.
Dubbed “ED19,” the face shield under development at Edmonds College is currently undergoing informal field tests at Skagit Valley Hospital, Mt Vernon, and St Joseph Medical Center, Bellingham. The ED19 is targeted at frontline healthcare workers: Emergency Medical Technicians, Nurses, and Doctors.
“First, while it is really cool that people are 3d printing PPE (for the record I’m a BIG fan of distributed production) it still takes a very long time to print a single part. By sourcing replacement headgear for welding helmets we can offer a solution that is more durable, more adjustable, and more comfortable at a very competitive price,” said David Voetmann, The Facility program manager.
Using mostly off-the-shelf products and components, gives Voetmann and his team a chance to test and modify rapidly. Even more importantly, perhaps, is his second purpose: “the real point is exploring a transition away from our current disposable mentality.” His goal is to make this face shield, or any PPE, as reusable as possible. Some of it has to be disposable, of course, for a myriad of safety reasons, but as a culture we could shift to products that are cleaned and used more than once, when possible.
Voetmann is clear that he is not suggesting that current 3D printing efforts are unnecessary, far from it, he applauds and supports their efforts. He wants to look beyond the current crisis to how we might reduce future pandemic impact as well as find a more sustainable, earth-friendly method for healthcare use for years to come. This product could reduce the consumption rate of PPE.
As makers and students and staff have taken on tasks to help 3D print or sew or model various possible PPE solutions, the foundation for student learning is built into the program at Edmonds College — one that The National Resource Center for Materials Technology Education (MatEdU) and the TEAMM project have helped bring to reality thanks to National Science Foundation grant funds. In part, Monroe Hall is filled with materials science equipment and advanced manufacturing machines due to NSF grants and teamwork, for student use in the Engineering Technology Lab, as well as for the community via The Facility Maker Space.
As the COVID19 pandemic shows signs of slowing, it is far from over and the work aimed at sustainable solutions as well as the short-term PPE needs that can be solved with 3D printing will continue. It is up to us to continue encouraging and helping students and volunteers around the country as they find and build solutions.
In My Edmonds News, the article Edmonds College prototypes, manufactures face shields to meet COVID-19 needs of health care workers interviews Dr. Singh and his thoughts summarize this post well: “We are trying to do our small part to meet the urgent needs of our community and its health care workers,” said Edmonds College President Dr. Amit B. Singh. “We’ve responded rapidly and created innovative processes at both our makerspace and aerospace training center to meet this need.”
Note: We highlight and applaud the efforts of many educational institutions working to put PPE into the hands of healthcare workers. Here are a few highlights in the recent AM News post: Editor’s Corner: 3D Printers Rally To Help Stem COVID-19: Your Help Is Needed. Tennessee Tech and University of Louisville are mentioned. We are doing an update that includes other college initiatives.