3d Printing Covid PPE

face shield wide angle


In late March 2020 when the pandemic hit, there seemed to be a shortage of face shields and other plastic parts, and a major concern that they would not be able to be produced quickly enough en masse. At the time, I was a member of a maker-space called Artisan's Asylum in Cambridge, Mass. and knew a little about 3d printing, so decided to crowdfund a printer to help out, which would then be donated to the organization.

We assembled the printer from a kit, which took a couple days, and then spent another week or two ironing out all the kinks, of which there were many. One interesting quirk was that you really need isopropyl alcohol to clean the plate, and during a pandemic isopropyl alcohol is almost impossible to find. Sharing the resolution of the issues, temperature settings, and other minutiae with a growing network of other people doing the same thing felt like the real contribution.

There did wind up being a sort of underground effort with drop points springing up and a system to get them to hospitals, which was nice to see. I obtained a better understanding of how things are produced industrially, and it was humbling to see the difference in scale as the large manufacturers and groups with hundreds of printers ramped up production.