A Swift Current resident has started an initiative to produce protective face shields for frontline health care workers with the help of owners of 3D printers.
David Stock, who works as a health care professional in Swift Current, wanted to do something when he realized how difficult it is to find face shield during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I actually found some shields that I needed with the help of a friend, but then I felt there was a bigger opportunity to help other people,” he said. “So I asked some people with 3D printers if they would help me. I started by ordering a printer of my own and trying to get supplies from wherever I could source them.”
He received a positive response locally and from elsewhere in the province from owners of 3D printers when he posted on Facebook about his goal to make face shields.
“The response that I got was quite astounding actually,” he said. “Saskatchewan is blessed with how everyone is so willing to help each other when there's a need. Right now, there's a lot of people that feel like the situation is something out of their control and they want to help. So luckily for me I had some smart people that offered to design and print these face shields for me.”
He assembles the face shields from different materials that are mostly off-the-shelf items, with the exception of the frames.
“We found a solution that's doing the job,” he said. “It's comfortable to wear, and basically I learned a lot about 3D printers.”
The frames are printed on 3D printers, which use PLA 3D printer filament. He uses clear plastic sheets such as overhead projector sheets (size 8.5x11 or A4) for the shields, as well as clear super glue and half inch braided elastic.
“I put a couple of dabs of glue on to hold the visor in, trim the corners of the visor so they're not sharp, a couple of staples on each end to hold the elastics, and then that basically creates a one size fits all solution,” he explained.
It can take up to two hours to print each frame, depending on the type of 3D printer used for the task. It is the most time-consuming part of the process.
“It took me probably two weeks to make the first 100 and going forward I'll probably be able to make 100 in two days,” he said. “My original goal was just to make 500 of these things, but now I have so much help that we'll probably be able to make 250 a week. As long as I have supplies and there is a need I'll make them. My goal right now is to make 1,000 of them.”
He already donated face shields to various individuals who need protection while carrying out their duties. So far, he gave them to pharmacies, a funeral director, dentists, and a group home.
“I've been in touch with the Saskatchewan Health Authority to try and increase their stockpile if they need them for healthcare workers, but basically anyone that needs them, especially if they're working on the frontlines or in contact with other people,” he said.
Stock has received help from various individuals and businesses. Russ Burton in Regina and Bruce Boczkowski in Moose Jaw assisted with the shield designs. The Hockridge family in Swift Current, Chris Samoila in Prince Albert, and AGI in Swift Current helped with the design and are now printing frames, Thor3D in Outlook is printing frames and also offering discounts on the filament for anyone printing frames, and Janice Stock of Hazlet is supplying elastic for the face shields.
Mike and Veena Hockridge and their teenage daughter Amisha are eager to help with the printing of frames, because they want to give back to the medical community.
Amisha has a rare medical condition called Microtia, and she already had 14 surgeries. She therefore wants to support health professionals during this pandemic.
“There's been a lot of medical staff that has helped me and I think it's a really good way to help them in return,” she said.
She is familiar with the use of a 3D printer, because she has been using the family’s printer after she started Amisha’s Creations about six years ago to express her creativity while dealing with her health issues.
“We've been kind of on the down low with Amisha’s Creations the last little bit, but I'm planning to start up again with everything,” she said. “I was really sick, which is why I couldn't keep going very much, but I'm definitely planning to start up again.”
This initiative to assist frontline health care workers has been a great way to get going again with Amisha’s Creations. The family’s initial involvement started when Mike responded to David Stock’s Facebook post.
“I printed out some different schematics for him, and we went back and forth modifying some of them for what he was looking for,” Mike recalled. “Eventually he settled on one design and we started printing.”
Amisha is taking care of the printing of the frames on the 3D printer, and they have already made 85 face shield frames.
The Hockridge family has also started to produce surgical mask straps through 3D printing, which they have already donated to a Swift Current pharmacist and others who are using surgical masks.
The elastic bands of a surgical mask can cause irritation to a person’s ears when worn for a long period, but these straps provide a simple alternative. The elastic bands of a surgical mask are hooked to a strap that fits behind a person’s head instead of around their ears.
They will be happy to produce any other items on their 3D printer that can be used by health care workers.
“If anybody has any ideas that they need in the medical system that they want printed, we can definitely try and help them out,” Veena said. “Our whole goal is to help out where we can.”
David Stock will welcome any donation of supplies for the production of protective face shields, but he will only accept items in unopened original packaging. He follows strict infection prevention and control protocols, starting with the frames that he receives from those who are helping to print them.
“I soak them in bleach solution, I rinse them, and I dry them overnight with some fans so that the frames are completely dry before I can insert the visors in them,” he said. “We're doing proper hand hygiene, I'm wearing surgical masks and gloves while I'm doing all of this, and we're disinfecting all the work areas all the time to try and maintain that.”
Anyone who wants to support this initiative to produce face shields can contact Stock through his Facebook page (www.facebook.com/djstock).
“I just want to express my gratitude to all the people that have offered support in a number of ways,” he said. “I couldn't do this project without their help and if this protects even one person in our community then it will be worth it.”