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Professor uses 3D printers to make face shields for healthcare workers

Posted at 3:18 PM, Apr 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-07 20:06:12-04

PULASKI COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — Somerset Community College has answered the call to help make more personal protective equipment for health care workers around the state.

According to Professor Eric Wooldridge, the school's 3D printing labs are churning out about 300 protective face shields for local health care workers every day.

"It's really been a great effort by everyone to actually make it work," Wooldridge said.

Wooldridge and a small team of staff and volunteers have been working around the clock to get as many face shields out to health care workers as possible, all while following strict social distancing guidelines.

"We are sort of working in seclusion," Wooldridge said. "Volunteers coming in one at a time. Technicians coming in one at a time to work on equipment. It's not a lot of man power, but a lot of heart and we're just so blessed to have the opportunity to handle this."

The school has around 30-35 3D printers running 24/7. Each printer creates the headband for each protective face shield.

Then, the team assembles the entire shield together by adding an elastic strap and plastic face cover, which is made from transparencies.

According to Wooldridge, each headband costs less than a dollar to make. The entire face shield costs less than $3 to make. The cost of running the printers is also cheap.

"The costs of running these is pennies in the grand scheme of things," Wooldridge said.

The project is largely funded by research grants the lab already had through the National Science Foundation and the USDA, according to Wooldridge.

He said they allowed him to divert the grants to fund this project.

"A lot of what we're doing right now is directly because of those three programs," Wooldridge said.

The project has also relied on volunteers for providing the materials to make the elastic straps and the shields themselves.

Wooldridge said the current need is for more elastic. Specifically, he is asking for the type of braided elastic you can typically get from a craft store.

He said anyone who has some and would like to donate to the project can drop the elastic off here.