FRC East producing PPE for area health care workers

April 22, 2020 | Categories: America Makes News

HAVELOCK, Craven County — Fleet Readiness Center East’s Engineering Innovation Lab has stepped up to produce medical face shields to supply health care workers in the area.

Starting this week, officials say FRCE will begin delivering 3D printed headbands and face shields to local first responders and medical professionals.

The initiative is a natural extension of the commonalities between FRCE employees and local health care providers, said Mark Meno, director of the depot’s Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul Engineering Department.

“These health care workers and many of us at FRCE share the responsibility of being part of a frontline workforce. In many ways, we have shared missions,” he explained. “We are used to having our employees go forward into hot spot areas to support the warfighter. Many of us are on-call to respond with short notice in times of crisis. In this case, our health care workers are operating today in a dangerous environment with a strained supply chain that is supposed to keep protective devices flowing to them.

“These are our neighbors and our family members,” Meno said. “Utilizing our engineering resources to provide for that workforce is a natural response.”

A naval administrative message released April 3 authorized local commands to begin using additive manufacturing methods to support COVID-19 relief.

“It took us off the sidelines and got us into the game,” Meno said.

Randall Lewis, innovation lead at FRCE’s Fleet Support Team Site Support Office, said there is no cost to the receiving organization for these PPE items.

“It’s great for us,” he explained. “Being one of the larger employers in the area, we find it really important to give back to the community anytime we can, and since we are a huge manufacturing facility, it’s great for us to use the resources that we have – put that to work and help the community and help those who might need it.”

FRCE’s Engineering Innovation Lab has four 3D printers working around the clock to meet the community’s PPE requirements.

“We are using the engineering-managed additive manufacturing equipment in the mobile FabLab and the Engineering Innovation Lab to make the headband portion of the face shield,” Lewis said. “Manufacturing is making the clear face shield. I will marry the two pieces together in my lab, add a strap, and they will be sanitized, packaged and sent out.”

The 3D printers take around three hours to produce each headband, Lewis said, followed by about five minutes of post-processing to remove any burrs or sharp edges left behind by the printing process. The sanitation – done in accordance with Food and Drug Administration guidelines – goes fairly quickly, and the finished product is packaged with an adjustable strap. It is then ready to head to its final destination on the front lines of the nation’s COVID-19 response.

NAVAIR has provided the manufacturing plan to the community so everyone can make the shields, and has designed the plans to work using either polylactic acid or polyethylene terephthalate glycol plastics, so as many people as possible can make this PPE at home or work.

The Navy and Marine Corps have partnered with America Makes—a national manufacturing institute—to integrate government and commercial manufacturing capacity into a distributing manufacturing network to respond to urgent supply needs. The institute is coordinating the requests through its website.


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