With the need for personal protective equipment at an all-time high, two FJA staff members use technology to aid local medical workers.
In response to medical supplies running low due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus, staff at Frankel Jewish Academy (FJA) began using their STEM lab’s 3D printers to create protective face shields for the medical community.
Since March 27, FJA Director of Innovation and Technology Dan Bourdeau and STEM Lab Manager Dale Rogers have created 40 shields, while enabling contactless pick-ups for nurses and doctors stationed at mobile COVID-19 testing sites in Farmington Hills.
The project took off after Nicole Kahn, a teacher at FJA, inquired if the school’s STEM lab had the capacity to produce personal protective equipment.
“Nicole’s brother is in the medical profession over on the East Coast, and was relaying messages to her about how desperate the situation was for medical staff to receive more supplies,” Bourdeau said. “That got the ball rolling for us to start looking at ideas to help our own community and within about an hour of research, I was able to find a design that met the material capability that we have here in the lab.”
According to Bourdeau, there is an abundance of designs of protective face shields that can be 3D printed or produced locally, but there are also a number of designs that aren’t ideal for hygienic reasons.
Bourdeau and Rogers are producing a design involving all non-porous plastic, which makes it easy to wipe down and does not absorb any substances. The product is also lightweight and cost-effective to make with products readily available in their lab.
While there are multiple types of 3D printers, the FJA STEM lab printer uses a plastic filament that is heated, and then squeezes out small, thin layers of molten plastic which hardens on top of one another. The printer forms the product layer by layer, and then cools to form the final product.
“We are constantly optimizing our printing process so we can use less material and print them faster,” Bourdeau said. “We started with printing two pieces at a time, and now we are up to three pieces. We are also creating these pieces at less than 45 minutes per piece instead of 90 minutes per piece when we first started.”
With the school being closed, Bourdeau or Rogers have to go in by themselves, remove the parts from the machine and start the next round.
They are now exploring options to move the machine so they can easily access it to enable the printer to run anywhere from 10-24 hours a day to ramp up production.
“We are hyperlocal and we are filling the need for this equipment within our own communities,” Bourdeau said. “We are helping our neighbors who are doing mobile COVID testing because it is these local doctors who are on the low end of receiving more assistance from the state or federal government.”
Bourdeau and Rogers are now working off a list of requests from the community for their face shields. As of today, they have requests for more than 100 face shields.
“We have no plans on stopping production — we actually just received some donated parts to continue making these shields,” Bourdeau said. “We will not stop until the need is not there anymore. This whole process has been gratifying to be able to help in some very small way.”
If you or someone you know would like a face shield, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, how many shields you want, where the shields will be used and contact information to arrange pickup.
You can also donate to help FJA continue to buy the materials needed to produce the face shields by going to frankelja.org/donate.