Volunteers create makeshift operation to create 12,000 medical shields for Sacramento hospitals

VIA <ABC 10>
Van Tieu

SACRAMENTO, Calif — A face shield manufacturing plant has sprouted up nearly overnight in Rocklin thanks to the tireless work of volunteers eager to deliver protective equipment to front line medical workers and first responders facing a shortage of supplies during the coronavirus pandemic.

The volunteer-based "Operation Shields Up" is led by Alan Puccinelli of Auburn. The Repkord Chief Executive Officer went from running his 3D printing company to running the make-shift manufacturing operation in just eight days. Puccinelli said he expects he can make 12,000 face shields for area hospitals at the rate his is growing as more local volunteers, shops, and groups jump on board. "That's what keeps me motivated behind this — the community has just rallied behind me," he said.  The shields are built from an open-sourced design validated by the Czech Ministry of Health. Currently, the shields are getting pumped at a rate of 100 per day. In the coming days, the operation will be scaled up to produce hundreds of shields per day.

"We're a rag tag group of community people who really care," Puccinelli said. The space was donated by Rocklin's Hacker Lab Coworking Space. The filament sheets were sourced by West Sacramento wholesaler, Pro Plastics. The 3D printing jobs are crowd sourced. The process takes up to two hours.

That's why Puccinelli sent a call to action on Twitter earlier this week, which received more than a thousand retweets. Sacramento City and Sierra Colleges answered the call to 3D print the face frames off-site.

Makers are sending these parts to the coworking space, where a limited staff handles laser cutting plastic sheets, assembly and packaging. The volunteers on site also created different manufacturing stations, including a sanitation station that follows guidelines from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention.

"I can't just have hundreds of people in here helping me do stuff — we still have to be responsible" Puccinelli said.

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Puccinelli said if more people help 3D print or a molding company jumps on board, the operation could quickly scale up.

To get there, he says the Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society has been invaluable. It stepped up to manage fundraising, finances, and distributing the shields to doctors and nurses.

"[The shields] are acceptable to be used in the hospitals," said Aileen Wetzel, Chief Executive Officer for SSVMS. "They are items the hospital can disinfect themselves and use multiple times and an indefinite number of times."

Wetzel said with a shortage of protective gear across the region, there was no hesitation to join forces.

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"It is enormously gratifying to see the entire community pull together," Wetzel said.

Puccinelli said the demand has been so great, that hospital procurement teams have offered to buy every mask they make. However, he said the operation is not for profit. 

"There's people who want to jump the line and want to try to buy these things but we are 100% donated, and 100% donating," Puccinelli said. 

As he averages three hours of sleep per night, Puccinelli said it's the spirit of neighbors helping each other that serves as his motivation in the most uncertain of times.

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We have a team of volunteers that are busy working around the clock creating protective face shields for front line hospital workers, emergency medical responders, police and fire personnel and more...

All face shields are FREE!

Learn more: How to Help Get FREE Face Shields to Hospital Workers

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