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Univ. Labs Design, Produce Medical Face Shields

MIT face shield

Project Manus technical specialist Robyn Goodner wears a plastic face shield (Project Manus, MIT)

3 Apr. 2020. University engineering and medical groups designed simple, open-source face shields for health care workers on the front lines against the Covid-19 pandemic. The researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, with their private-sector partners, are producing large quantities of their face shields or providing specifications online, for production by others.

Face shields are a part of personal protective equipment, or PPE, for health care workers that helps prevent infection from patients. The clear plastic shields protect the head and face, including the eyes, from splashes and spatters of fluids from a patient. When caring for individuals with infectious diseases, like Covid-19, face shields should be changed frequently, ideally with each patient. With the burgeoning Covid-19 pandemic, particularly in the U.S., many medical centers are running short of personal protective equipment, including face shields.

The MIT face shield is a product of the university’s Project Manus, an initiative to encourage hands-on maker spaces with three-dimensional printers and laser cutters made available for students to design and produce new product prototypes. With the urgent need for much more personal protective equipment for health care workers caring for Covid-19 patients, a team led by Project Manus director and mechanical engineering professor Martin Culpepper took on the task of designing an easy-to-make face shield for health care workers.

Culpepper and colleagues designed a simple face shield, laser- or die-cut from a single flat piece of flexible polycarbonate and polyethylene terephthalate glycol or PETG plastic. The design makes it possible to produce thousands of face shields per hour. Once the piece is cut from the plastic sheet, it’s folded into a three-part shield worn on the head that covers the eyes, face, and neck. With the aid of medical engineering professor and physician Elazer Edelman, the team tested the face shield with local hospitals, gaining valuable feedback from health care workers.

“These face shields have to be made rapidly and at low cost because they need to be disposable,” says Culpepper in an MIT statement. “Our technique combines low-cost materials with a high-rate manufacturing that has the potential of meeting the need for face shields nationwide.”

With the finalized design, Project Manus shifted to full-scale manufacturing with the company Polymershapes in Charlotte, North Carolina, aiming for producing 50,000 pieces a day within a few weeks. and the ability to make the face shields at more than 80 sites nationwide.

McGill face shield

3-D printed face shield (McGill University)

The McGill face shield is a product of the university’s health center, partnering with 3-D printing company AON3D, a spin-off enterprise in Montreal. The face shield project is led by anesthesiologist Avinash Sinha and Leigh MacIntyre, a software project manager in the university’s neuroscience center. As with the MIT team, the urgency of rapidly growing Covid-19 patients pushed other priorities aside.

“Although we currently have an inventory of protective equipment, we worry that consumption will outstrip supply and deliveries,” says Sinha in a McGill University statement. “If, like in Italy, the need for PPE doubles every three days for three weeks, then we will need about 130 times more PPE per day in three weeks compared to what we needed on day one.”

Sinha and MacIntyre took their idea for a 3-D printed face shield to AON3D on 24 March, which turned around a prototype based on an open-source design from Georgia Tech in about two hours. After initial testing and refinements, the McGill team produced a final version for testing at Montreal General Hospital on 29 March. AON3D says it already donated hundreds of face shields to four hospitals in Montreal, and plans to produce some 10,000 more in the next week.

“We are working to rapidly ramp up capacity so we can produce more face shields to support more health care workers across the country,” says AON3D CEO Kevin Han. The company makes the face shield template and specifications available on GitHub.

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