Tech companies like Apple and Blue Origin and universities like Duke are using their arsenals of 3D printers to produce millions of face shields for medical workers

April 14, 2020 | Categories: America Makes News, Technology

Nearly 600,000 people in the United States have been infected with the virus, and as it continues to spread across the US, it’s highlighted shortages of supplies at hospitals nationwide. Healthcare workers rely on personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect themselves from getting sick or potentially infecting patients, but doctors and nurses from New York to California have reported a lack of supplies, which could lead to the outbreak worsening.

Now, facilities with stores of 3D printers are jumping in to help. While more urgent life-save equipment, like N95 respirator masks and ventilators, can’t be consistently or quickly be 3D-printed, the process is being used to produce millions of plastic face shields for medical workers.

Tech and transportation giants like Apple, HP, and Ford have pivoted to printing face shields, while 3D-printing facilities at universities like Harvard and Syracuse have jumped in to help supply face shields to local hospitals.

And it’s not just large universities and corporations who are getting involved in the effort. America Makes, a national accelerator for 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing), has partnered with the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and the National Institutes of Health to build a repository where manufacturers can upload their 3D-printable designs. The designs are reviewed and then fast-tracked to the NIH 3D Print Exchange, which is an open site for sharing designs.

This has allowed individuals and small-batch manufacturers to start producing protective face shields too. People like former Autodesk CEO Carl Bass have started producing face shields on their own, with the goal of making more than 20,000 to deliver to healthcare providers.

Still, companies and schools with large 3D-printing facilities are likely best equipped to produce large batches of face shields. Here are some ways tech giants and universities are stepping in to help during the outbreak.

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Courtesy of Business Insider