COVID-19: Physics professor, student use 3D printer to help make face shields for healthcare workers

April 9, 2020

Sophomore Jordan Dowdy used his 3D printer to make face shields for healthcare workers.

Using 3D printing technology, Dr. Akhtar Mahmood, Bellarmine physics professor, and sophomore physics major Jordan Dowdy created a boxful of headbands needed for the face shields that are being used by medical staff treating COVID-19 patients in Louisville.

Dr. Kristin Cook, associate dean of the Annsley Frazier Thornton School of Education, delivered the bands to a donation site on Wednesday.

She and Dr. Mahmood had been working together on a STEM Maker Fair that was to be held at Bellarmine on March 14 as part of a National Science Foundation grant.

A Bellarmine physics professor and student printed these components for COVID-19 face shields on a 3D printer.“When we had to make the decision to cancel the Maker Fair [because of the coronavirus], I learned about some local STEAM teachers who own 3D printers and were using them to make face shields,” Dr. Cook said. “After mentioning to AK that we might use some of our materials to help contribute and getting access to the file, AK, without a moment's hesitation, dove right in to make it happen.”

Dr. Mary Huff, dean of the Bellarmine College of Arts and Sciences, said the contribution was a “great way to turn a disappointment (the cancelation of the STEM Maker Fair) around to make a difference for our community.” She also noted that earlier this week, Bellarmine’s Biology Department donated 13 cases of disposable nitrile gloves and one box of fluid-impervious gowns in response to the call for personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers.

Dr. Mahmood and Jordan printed the headbands on Jordan’s personal 3D printer because it is larger than the one in Bellarmine’s Robotics Lab, Dr. Mahmood said. They used 3D printer filament from the Bellarmine lab.

“There are three distinct pieces that are needed for the face shield,” Dr. Mahmood said. “There is the headband that goes across the forehead, which is what we made. Then there is the clear/transparent plastic film piece that is attached to the headband. This will be attached at the hospitals, since they have these. The third piece is the elastic band that is attached to the headband to go around the head.

“I am glad we were able to help with making the face shields that will be used by the medical doctors and staff at the local hospitals in Louisville who are treating COVID-19 patients. As you know, there is a critical shortage of COVID-19 face shields in hospitals in the country.”  

Dr. Mahmood and Jordan are now working to design splitters for ventilators to 3D print. “Due to the shortage of ventilators, hospitals want to share one ventilator for two patients,” Dr. Mahmood said. “We have the design so that we can print for at least three common ventilator models. We are planning to test 3D print first and then if all looks good, we will start printing them sometime next week once we know how many are needed.”


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