RWU Professors Fabricating Face Shields for Frontline Workers
Delivering more than 900 face shields – and counting – to first responders, healthcare workers and people working with vulnerable populations, RWU faculty and staff are part of a grassroots effort to help equip and protect those on the front lines of the pandemic
Frontline workers put their lives at risk to serve those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. To help protect these heroes, RWU professors and staff are creating face shields using 3D printers and office supplies, collectively delivering over 900 shields to date, with more on the way.
“It seems niche, but it’s a really huge effort,” said Adjunct Professor Andrew Staroscik. “There are literally thousands of people all over the world making face shields.”
Included in those thousands are seven RWU faculty and staff: Professor of Biology Kerri Warren, Assistant Professor of Architecture Olga Mesa, Adjunct Professor Aaron Brode, Assistant Professor of Physics Adria Updike, Digital Education Specialist John O'Keefe, and Web & Digital Services Specialist Christopher Truszkowski, along with Staroscik, are all stepping up to meet the need for personal protective equipment or PPE.
Working in small teams and swapping ideas over an email thread, they are combining open-source 3D printing designs with their own ingenuity to create face shields for frontline workers in Rhode Island and beyond.
“People say they are grateful to have them, and they feel safer. They say they are as good as the face shields being provided by the state. They love them and they want more,” said Staroscik.
He is working with his wife, Warren, to produce face shields using 3D printing to fabricate visors that hold up protective plastic shields. They use binder covers from office supply stores, made from the 7-10 mil PET plastic preferred by healthcare workers, to make the clear plastic shields, which attach to the visors.
“The design we are using right now doesn’t require a strap to hold it on your head or anything else. You take the visor off the printer and take a piece of clear binder cover or transparency and hit it with a three-hole punch. Bang, one hit with a three-hole punch, you’re done,” he said.
No Printer Necessary
Mesa began the initiative by 3D printing face shields. Soon, she became frustrated with the hour-long printing time it took to produce a visor. Her husband, Brode, an architectural designer, designed a model that doesn’t require 3D printing. His design shortened the fabrication time for a visor to 15 minutes.
Their design joins PVC tape with double-sided tape, which is then secured with an elastic band to account for variation in head sizes. After consulting with professionals at South County Hospital, Mesa and Brode decided to attach PET plastic film to the visors with binder clips to create shields that can easily be removed and washed.
“Some of my family is here, so I convinced them to help make shields. It has become an after-dinner activity,” Mesa said.
Gallery: Face Shields for Frontline Workers
“The other day, a nurse sent me a very sweet note thanking me. She said that she liked the fact that the shield doesn’t fog and that she can just unclip, wipe, and clip again. I was very happy to hear from her that it was working well,” said Mesa.
Mesa distributed 100 face shields to South County Hospital in Wakefield, R.I., and 100 to the Rhode Island National Guard, along with 140 others. Warren and Staroscik, working with a team of local 3D printer enthusiasts, delivered 580 shields and 200 devices to protect healthcare workers’ ears from the strain of wearing face masks. Their recipients include student EMTs, local fire departments, and ER doctors and nurses at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, and Charlton Memorial and Saint Anne’s hospitals in Fall River, Mass.
RWU senior Emily Bisanti volunteers as an EMT with the Bristol Fire Department. She received face masks from Warren and Staroscik, and is grateful for their protection.
“The face shields are really nice because they are washable and reusable. They are already on the truck. We’ve had them for about a week. Professor Warren organized that very quickly,” Bisanti said.
Staroscik hopes that the need for PPE will soon be met by traditional manufacturing systems. Until then, he encourages more community members to join the grassroots effort.
“Face shields are easy to make,” he said. “There are tons of resources for making them. If you’ve ever 3D printed something and you know how to work your machine, it’s the easiest design in the world. You can also do it without a 3D printer.”
“I would love to identify need within the Roger Williams community,” said Staroscik. “We know of several Roger Williams students who are first responders working at-risk, wearing these shields. We’ve really been finding need through word of mouth. If there are faculty members whose spouses are nurses, or mothers-in-law work in nursing homes, get them in touch because we’ve got shields for them.”
“Some of these shields are in New York, Boston, New Jersey, and Louisiana. Those are because of connections to Roger Williams community members who said, ‘Look, I’ve got a brother, I’ve got a connection to an ER nurse,’” Warren said. “We know there is more need out there. If there’s someone that needs them, put them in contact with us.”
Do you know first responders, medical workers, and others who work with vulnerable populations in need of face shields? Contact Andrew Staroscik at firstname.lastname@example.org.