UA using 3-D printers to make PPE

Headbands for face shields are created through 3D printers at The Cube, part of the UA College...
Headbands for face shields are created through 3D printers at The Cube, part of the UA College of Engineering.(University of Alabama)
Updated: Apr. 6, 2020 at 11:56 AM CDT
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TUCALOOSA, Ala. (WBRC) - PPE or personal protective equipment for health care workers are a vital resource to keep those on the coronavirus frontlines safe. The problem is PPE can be hard to come by.

The University of Alabama community has come together to help provide PPE by using 3D-printers.

Two groups across three colleges on campus are producing face shields for health care professionals at University Medical Center, DCH Health System in Tuscaloosa and UAB Hospital.

A crowdfunding web site is set up to assist UA faculty, staff and students in their efforts.

“Finding PPE is very difficult,” said Dr. Richard Friend, dean of the UA College of Community Health Sciences that operates UMC. “Anything we can do to help the health care workers on the front lines is extremely important. I’m very encouraged by the ingenuity and resources of the University to make this happen.”

Realizing the need for PPE locally at UMC and DCH, Friend formed a partnership with the UA College of Engineering and the STEM Path to the MBA Program based out of the Culverhouse College of Business to print flexible headbands to attach to plastic face shields fabricated using UA equipment.

The College of Engineering’s makerspace, The Cube, which houses 3D printers and other manufacturing equipment, is being used to make the PPE. Large sheets of plastic were cut using a waterjet to form the face shield and printers are used to make the headbands.

Along with this project, the Alabama Productivity Center, an outreach center part of UA’s Culverhouse College of Business, also began working to provide headbands for face shields used at UAB Hospital. The APC’s two 3D printers were enlisted by the Alabama Power Company’s Technology Applications Center.

APC, which helps manufacturers around the state, normally uses the 3D printers to help companies understand how the additive manufacturing technology could help their business, said Alan Hill, APC executive director.

“It’s the first time we’ve done something like this,” Hill said. “There is no project we’re working on right now with a greater impact than this, especially helping out our health care workers on the front line.”

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