A Lynchburg company is 3D printing face shields for local health workers

Coronavirus

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — A company in Lynchburg is 3D printing face shields for area doctors. They say it’s a community effort of people donating their time and resources.

Vector Space, a collaborative workspace, is closed to its members because of the virus. With that down time, the executive director set their three 3D printers to make visors for face shields.

“3D printing is not fast,” said Executive Director Elise Spontarelli. “It’s a really slow process. So this takes about two hours to print one of these.”

She demonstrated how the process works.

“This is plastic on a roll here. It’s sort of like a Lego plastic in terms of hardness. And what’s happening here is it’s fed into what’s called the hot end or the extruder, and it gets very hot, and it melts the plastic, and then melts it down layer upon layer.”

Some of Vector Space’s community partners with their own 3D printers are helping out, and they’ve gotten donations of plastic covers from local teachers.

“This is a finished face shield,” said Spontarelli, holding up a shield. “So you can see this is the printed part here. This is foam that’s been attached, and then the plastic on the front.”

Spontarelli says they’ve made about 30 as of Monday afternoon with another 20 being printed for doctors in the area.

“What we’re hearing mostly is from medical professionals who are not specifically dealing with COVID patients but would still like that extra reassurance and that extra barrier between them and any patients and even each other.”

She says the shield design has already been approved by the National Institutes of Health, as major metropolitan areas have been hit hard by the pandemic much earlier than Lynchburg, and engineers in larger cities have had more time to develop designs.

“We are fortunate that we sort of get to hop on with some pre-tested designs.”

Spontarelli is asking doctors for donations of about 5 or 6 dollars per mask to help cover the cost of time and materials.

The company Framatome is also helping to 3D print face guards. A representative from the company emailed a statement to WFXR News.

“Our thoughts are with everyone who is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Denise Woernle, vice president of Communications, Framatome in North America. “We all want to help and at Framatome, we are exploring, along with Vector Space and several other organizations, how we can produce face shields, using an approved design, on our 3D printers. We will coordinate with Centra Health to ensure the materials are distributed and used appropriately. We are proud to be able to work with our partners to support our community in this challenging time.”

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