The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock are using 3-D printers to make face shields for the state's health care workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The UAFS College of Applied Science and Technology began testing prototypes nearly two weeks ago after Attorney Cheryl Anderson, whose husband works as an emergency room physician, shared a need for personal protective equipment with Derek Goodson, according to a news release. Goodson is lead faculty for computer graphic technology and animation technology at UAFS.
The 3-D elements of the face shields are printed at UAFS following an open-source design. Goodson has manufactured one component, which will be used in conjunction with PETG 0.5mm transparent sheets and elastic banding to complete each shield.
As of Saturday, UAFS had produced 120 of the 3-D printed pieces, which were passed along Saturday evening to the next stage of assembly. Each piece takes about four hours to print, and 14 machines are running at a time in the UAFS lab.
On Monday, small batches of fully assembled shields were delivered to Mercy Fort Smith and Baptist Van Buren for field testing.
In addition, UA-Little Rock has partnered with the Little Rock School District and Little Rock Regional Chamber on its own personal protective equipment project.
LRSD donated eight 3-D printers to the university, which is using its own printers and retrofitting the LRSD printers to make frames for face shields. Little Rock company Mr. Plastics is 3-D printing the clear shield parts, according to a news release.
Completed face shields will be delivered to CHI St. Vincent. UA Little Rock had already donated 150 face shields to the hospital, and the university aims to donate 200 more this week.
UA Little Rock's print farm is on the fourth floor of the Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology, where Armand Tomany of the Graduate Institute of Technology; Ben Dory, artist-in-residence in metals in the Department of Art and Design; Ben Gilbert, also of the graduate institute; and students Alex Kingston and David Whitman are printing the face shield frames.
The Department of Systems Engineering and STEM Education Center have joined the project as well. Andrew Wright, associate professor of systems engineering; Trigun Maroo, a doctoral candidate; Kent Layton, director of the STEM Education Center; and the center’s student worker, Alex Alvarez, are using 3-D printers to make the face shield frames.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported on Thursday that Lexicon Inc. of Little Rock will help with production; St. Louis, Missouri-based ACI Plastics Inc. (which has a location in North Little Rock) is helping supply materials; and Sage V Foods of Little Rock is helping fund the UA Little Rock effort.