To meet the critical shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare and other front line workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers in the US have designed low-cost plastic face shields which are being made available to manufacturers.
K+K Thermoforming, a company based in Southbridge, Massachusetts, is now producing the first order of 80,000 shields placed by the Face Shield COVID-19 Response Team at University of Massachusetts Amherst.
The design for the face shields was developed by researchers at the university, with inputs from engineers, nurses and other health care professionals.
Will be distributed to the frontline workers
Shields will be distributed to medical facilities and other front-line responders in the region before an expected virus peak in mid-April, said Peter Reinhart, Director, Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS), University of Massachusetts Amherst.
A face shield protects the eyes and can be worn over an N95 mask to mitigate the risk of contamination, said one of the face shield team leaders Meghan Huber of mechanical and industrial engineering at UMass Amherst
It is made from a single, flexible sheet of 0.010-inch plastic film designed and tested in IALS's Advanced Digital Design and Fabrication (ADDFab) Lab, said core facility director David Follette.
It folds to wrap around the forehead and fastens securely at the back with no added materials needed.
This is important, Follette added, because 3D printing a strap, for example, is slow and inefficient.
"You could use all the 3D printers in the world but it's never going to be as fast as laser-cut or die-cut plastic sheets. We decided early that our product would have to be not only effective, but cheap and fast," he said.
To supply large quantities requires high-volume manufacturing, he added.