The University of Victoria’s (UVic) Engineering Department is 3-D printing parts to build face-shields for frontline health care workers on the Island.
“There’s a big need for different types of medical supplies given the current pandemic and one of the big issues is getting our frontline workers – nurses and doctors – personal protective gear so they can stay safe,” Willerth explains. pic.twitter.com/87FgdE5YCb
— Devon Bidal (@devonscarlett) April 3, 2020
While UVic classes and on-campus research have been temporarily suspended since March due to the pandemic, about 24 research projects related to COVID-19 were granted exemptions; these include digital technologies, biomedical and genome research and the 3-D printing of equipment for frontline workers.
Stephanie Willerth, professor and director of biomedical engineering at UVic, is leading a team on campus to create face-shields for health care workers – while following the orders from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
“There’s a big need for different types of medical supplies given the current pandemic and one of the big issues is getting our frontline workers – nurses and doctors – personal protective gear so they can stay safe while trying to treat these patients,” she explained.
Willerth got in touch with Island Health to ask how UVic’s Engineering Department could contribute to the fight against COVID-19 and was told the face-shields are scarce. After a B.C. doctor contracted COVID-19 at the end of March, face-shields became mandatory but there aren’t enough to go around, she said. In response, UVic has joined a community effort to produce the equipment using 3-D printers.
Several groups on the Island – including Camosun College – are working together virtually to produce approximately 125,000 face-shields per month for Island Health, Willerth said. With the help of a $10,000 donation from Coast Capital Savings, UVic is producing the equipment for Island Health free of charge.
“At a time when there is a need to come together like never before, it is heartwarming to see the ingenuity and creativity such as what we’re seeing from our partners at UVic,” said Maureen Young, director of community leadership at Coast Capital Savings.
The UVic team is creating the plastic headbands for the face-shield in the university’s “print farm” – a room full of 3-D printers. The see-through shield portions are being laser-cut in Sidney and then dropped off at the campus to be assembled. With nine printers, UVic can produce about 54 face-shields per day.
Other companies in the region with 3-D printers – such as Phillips Brewing – are also printing the shields and dropping them off in a donation bin outside UVic’s Engineering Lab Wing, Willerth said. The design that UVic is using is the Prusa Face Shield which is open-source – meaning anyone can access it online, she explained.
Members of the public or organizations that have 3-D printers and the required materials are encouraged to contribute by printing the mask components and dropping them off in the designated donation bin, Willerth said. The UVic team will then wash and sterilize all the pieces, assemble the masks and seal them in bags to be delivered to workers on the frontline.