Nick Bontrager, associate professor in the School of Art, is using 3D printers to make face shields for local health care workers amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Health care workers in Fort Worth and around the world face shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), like masks, goggles and shields, as they treat those with COVID-19.
Bontrager, whose area of focus is new media art, is using his personal 3D printer as well as the 3D printers in the Fab Lab inside the Mary Couts Burnett Library to manufacture approximately 20 face shields per day.
True to the collaborative spirit of TCU, others across the university have fervently supported Bontrager’s efforts. Dr. June Koelker, dean of the library, and Brad Trussell, the library’s innovation collaborator, have encouraged Bontrager’s use of the Fab Lab’s 3D printers; fellow professor of art Cam Schoepp is printing parts for the face shields on his home 3D printer; and associate professor of painting Adam Fung is working with TCU’s chief technology officer Bryan Lucas to purchase raw materials and additional 3D printers to increase face shield production.
Face shields provide health care workers with full face coverage and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are intended to be worn with a respirator or face mask.
“Sewing face masks or face coverings is a fantastic way to contribute to community outreach,” said Bontrager. “I am focusing on resources that may not be as common in the average living space [to construct face shields].”
Bontrager uses polylactic acid (PLA), a bioplastic that has wide uses in the medical industry, to 3D print headbands that attach to the shield. Due to a shortage of clear plastic film materials and elastic bands, Bontrager and other shield producers have had to get creative, using overhead projector transparencies for shields and rubber bands to secure them to the headbands. Bontrager follows important hygienic steps, including wearing gloves, a mask and a face shield, when constructing the face shields, which are also properly sanitized by hospitals before being used by health care workers.
Last week, Bontrager delivered face shields to the health care workers at Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth. In recent days, he has even 3D printed adapters for scuba masks to help provide PPE to first responders in the city.
He welcomes others in the TCU community to join his efforts. Those who are interested in helping can contribute raw materials (such as 3D printer filament, clear plastic film materials and elastic bands) and/or make available use of 3D printers to increase face shield production.
To learn more, contact Nick Bontrager.