BC Answers Call for Personal Protective Equipment from Healthcare Workers Fighting COVID-19

3d printed face shield

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Bakersfield College has put the 3D printer from the Industrial Technology Department to use to manufacture hundreds of high-quality, medically-approved face shields and other personal protective equipment (PPE).

Our local healthcare workers battling COVID-19 have run out of PPE during a global shortage, putting their health and the health of their families at risk. Bakersfield College Professor Darren Willis has been working on a plan to help meet the urgent call for PPE, using the 3D printer in the Industrial Technology Department to print high-quality, reusable face shields. This week marks the first in around-the-clock production of the face shields, which will be delivered to rural and small clinics facing dire shortages.

Professor Willis is working in alternating shifts with student employee David Silva-Perez to print hundreds of the face shields using Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS).

“These face shields will impart critical protection for healthcare providers until the U.S. supply chain can catch up with current needs,” said Professor Willis. “The design has been set up and approved by medical professionals using durable materials. These face shield assemblies will be able to take sterilization from an autoclave, making them both safe and reusable.”

The industrial-grade 3D printer is housed at the Creative Design Center, the longest-running makerspace in Bakersfield. During the school year, the Creative Design Center pairs Bakersfield College students with community members who want to design and print their work, giving the students hands-on, practical learning opportunities.

Now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Creative Design Center will be serving as a local production site for urgently-needed PPE to protect healthcare workers and their families from exposure to the novel coronavirus.

“I'm excited to be giving back to the community while having the opportunity to get real world work experience,” said David Silva-Perez, a student in BC's industrial automation program. “We're taking all necessary precautions to keep the workspace safe and keep ourselves healthy. I set up the printer in the afternoon, and then it runs for the next 24 hours printing shield after shield.”

The 3D printer can produce 20 face shields in a 24-hour period. These face shields are constructed from a clear plastic transparency with six holes that clip to the edge of a visor. The transparency can be replaced if needed and the entire shield can be sterilized repeatedly, making it a valuable piece of reusable protective equipment.

"We're grateful to Bakersfield College for answering the call to support our frontline healthcare heroes," said Tim Calahan, spokesperson for Clinica Sierra Vista. "The national shortage of PPE has impacted our ability to receive new shipments. By making reusable masks here in town, Bakersfield College has given us a direct line to the supplies we need to protect our most vulnerable patients."

The 3D printer will also be used to make ear savers, small laser-cut devices that take the pressure off the ears for those wearing medical face masks like the N95 mask for extended periods. The first few batches of face shields were delivered to Clinica Sierra Vista and Bakersfield Family Medical Center this week.

"I am so proud of the way our BC community has come together, collectively rising to this occasion,” said Cindy Collier, Acting Director of BC's Health & Wellness Center. “The word community carries significance for us at BC as one of our core values. Even in the most challenging times, we embrace our responsibility to reflect the times and engage in the solutions. This project is yet another way BC faculty, staff, and students live our values in service to our community. ”

You can watch a video demonstrating how the masks are made on Darren Willis' YouTube channel.

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