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Volunteers band together to 3D print face shields: ‘It just kind of exploded’


VIA <Sacramento Bee>
<Mitchel Bobo>

Operation Shields Up is tackling the shortage of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers and the community through crowdsourcing new, innovative partnerships.


Two weeks ago, Alan Puccinelli, founder of Operation Shields Up, pivoted from his business selling accessories for 3D printing to using the machines to help fix the shortage of protective equipment plaguing local healthcare workers. According to Puccinelli, the effort quickly snowballed, drawing volunteers from the Hacker Lab and other communities into the cause.





Puccinelli said that he’d only recently begun renting office space from Hacker Lab, which focuses on entrepreneurship and technology through the facility’s maker spaces, tools and equipment.


But as demand for his business began to dwindle, and the number of people afflicted by the coronavirus began to rise, he decided to apply his knowledge of 3D printing towards the shortage of face shields.


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“I got pretty upset seeing the reports of doctors using Saran Wrap, or having to wear bags over their heads. It just started as something where I thought I’d just make a couple hundred to help people around here since I wasn’t very busy with my other products,” Fuccinelli said. “It just kind of exploded from there, and I guess I don’t know how to put the toothpaste back in the tube at this point.”


The model, which Puccinelli describes as “many hands making light work,” has seen a boon in volunteers from in and out of the Hacker Lab’s Rocklin, Rancho Cordova and Sacramento locations.


The design being utilized by those in and out of the lab was developed by Josef Prusa, a Czech inventor, who open sourced the designs after receiving approval from his country’s Ministry of Health.


Sandy Curth, a member of Berkeley’s master’s program in architecture, and Katherine Lane, a member of UC Davis’ PhD program for microbial biology, decided to hole up in Lane’s Davis home following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order to shelter in place.


The two have been printing face shields around the clock out of Lane’s home, or rather, Curth’s car.


“You print somewhere that’s isolated from the rest of your house. I’ve actually been running an extension cord out to the car, where I’ve got the printer setup, so it won’t get contaminated by the housemates,” Curth said.


“Or the cat,” Lane added.


The two were referred to Operation Shields Up after inquiring through a Facebook post about possible destinations for 3D-printed protective equipment. Since then, Lane has been recruiting members of the local scientific community to contribute through their own 3D printers.




If you have a #3DPrinter, join us in printing face shields for medical workers. We are donating to https://t.co/4LHj7zB3jc in #Sacramento. #opshieldsup is managing sanitization, components, and distribution. Using @prusa3D design. #PPE @josefprusa @masksfordocs @SacHackerLab pic.twitter.com/DFP5GSq2qd

— Kate Lane (@katethecurious)March 31, 2020


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“We’re only making a tiny contribution, but it’s really cool to think that, if people can network, this idea of manufacturing locally can help deal with shortages as they occur,” Lane said. “Of course, what we’re doing is never going to be as efficient as a factory making face shields through injection molding, but the factory making face shields may not be able to do it fast enough or get them to the places they’re needed tomorrow.”

According to the Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society’s Chief Executive Officer, Aileen Wetzel, Operations Shields Up has contributed more than 5,000 face shields to the nonprofit, which has been handling the distribution of protective equipment to Yolo, El Dorado, Sacramento and Placer counties.


The organization was founded following the cholera epidemic of the mid-1800’s, and is now made up of more than 6,000 physicians.


“All we hear from the folks on the front line is that they don’t have enough N95 masks or shields. Sacramento is a very robust healthcare environment. We have, in our four county area, close to 20 hospitals. Healthcare workers are definitely feeling crushed in this situation, and we want them to feel safe so they can continue to provide care for the people who need it,” Wetzel said.


According to Wetzel, the organization has seen an increase of use in its programs geared towards alleviating physician burnout.


Operation Shields Up has also contributed protective equipment to local organizations such as Sac Metro Fire, which has been testing for coronavirus through recently unveiled mobile integrated health units.


Puccinelli said that Operation Shields Up has thrived due to support from donations and volunteers, which have become increasingly necessary as materials grow scarce, and makers lay down their own savings to fill the void.


Large companies such as Ford and Apple have begun producing face shields, but Puccinelli says that he is ready to shift his focus in accordance with need, whether that means distributing to other areas or creating different pieces of protective equipment.

“We might have a pocket of intensity here, but we’ve talked to suppliers in the Midwest and they’re almost like, ‘Is this really that big of a deal?’ Because it hasn’t hit there yet,” Puccinelli said. “I’m not really worried about making too many, because if it gets to the point where we’re saturated locally then we will start looking at distributing wider. But right now, they’re taking them as fast as we can make them.”


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