Shortages are worsening for personal protective equipment like n95 respirators, gloves and gowns – typically shortened to PPE – as coronavirus continues its spread across the country.
In Florida, a state with nearly 5,000 cases of COVID-19 and counting, hospitals and urgent care centers are posting pleas to the community for anything that could help protect them while tending to patients.
A week ago, out-of-work Walt Disney World seamstress and Orlando resident Cynthia Kirkland turned her 3D printer toward making face shields out of the plastic sheeting commonly seen in overhead projectors in schools, and 3D-printed face bands – all of which are easily cleaned in a bleach bath.
It quickly turned into a statewide and national effort of more than 150 3D printers taking designs, originally created by makers in Sweden, the Czech Republic and elsewhere, and tweaking them.
“It was pretty incredible that the maker community literally was stuck at home and we were like, ‘Oh, we could totally just divert our pent-up energy to something to a good cause and get all of our printers up and running online,’” Kirkland said.
The Print the Curve Flat Facebook group is supplying thousands of face shields to medical facilities across the United States, and in the Tampa Bay area, including to Tampa General Hospital’s urgent care testing facilities.
Kirkland said the shields are not a replacement for the needed gear, but helps make masks last longer. She describes them as similar to a welding visor.
“It’s kind of crazy when you think of how much medical equipment one nurse needs in this environment,” Kirkland said.
“When they’re dealing of course with blood or medicine or just contamination in any sense of the word, the face shields that we’re creating as a 3D print group will protect the nurses from that.’
While the design is constantly being tweaked after feedback from medical professionals, Kirkland said it currently costs about $20 to print 60 shields.
Each one takes up to two hours to print.
Source: WUSF News