It has been no secret that due to the Coronavirus, our healthcare industry has been struggling to keep up with essential equipment such as facemasks, shields, gloves, etc. Dr. Elaine Parshall, GSSM’s Engineering Instructor, has been busy finding ways to help contribute to the need for supplies for our frontline workers.
“I had been reading these stories about scientists and engineers coming up with modifications for a ventilator that could support 2 – 4 people, and wanted to help, but knew that having to print in a sterile environment with special materials was probably out of reach for me,” said Dr. Parshall. “I first came across a GoFundMe site to support the making of face shields at a FabLab in Charlotte, through the efforts of teachers at Charlotte Latin School and UNCC, but they were only looking for donations. I then reached out to the head of the 3D printing lab at the Southeastern Institute for Manufacturing Technology (SiMT) and was told about a similar effort taking place at the University of South Carolina.”
When Dr. Parshall heard about this project at The University of South Carolina (USC) to make 5,000 face shields for The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), she jumped on it enthusiastically, wanting to do something to help our health care workers, and hopefully to have a chance to get Govies involved as well.
The GSSM engineering lab has four working 3D printers. A Taz 5, large enough to print two face shield visors, and three Monoprice Mini’s, substantial enough to print 18 strap-locks per printer. Dr. Parshall also borrowed a fifth 3D printer, a MakerGear M2, from the Outreach department. This printer can print one visor at a time.
Monoprice Mini 3D printer with 54 strap-locks printing
Taz 5 and MakerGear M2
“I was talking about the USC project in one of my SolidWorks classes, lamenting that I could not fit the visor on a sixth printer that we have,” said Dr. Parshall. “One of my students, Andrew Sherburne, offered to modify the design by cutting it in half and adding tabs to connect the two halves, using TinkerCad.”
GSSM student, Andrew Sherburne, put the design up on the screen, discussing how to modify it with classmate Brad Yielding, resulting in the design shown below. A screenshot of the print set-up for the largest printer, the Taz 5, can be seen on the left. Unfortunately, they were not able to use their design, as USC did not want to complicate the assembly instructions.
Thus far, Dr. Parshall has spent about 10 - 12 hours a day monitoring the printing since March 26. Dr. Parshall has averaged 6.3 masks per day, over the last nine days. However, she has now managed to get the MakerGear working reliably, and the Taz 5 printing two shields at a time, resulting in a doubled daily total.
“These printers have been working hard, they’ve been in use for over 100 hours in the past 11 days,” said Dr. Parshall. “My hat’s off to the people at Lulzbot, MakerGear, and MonoPrice for making products that can stand up to that kind of use.”
Dr. Parshall took the first batch of visors to USC on April 1. Dr. Parshall and Michael Hubbard, a volunteer helping Dr. Parshall with this project, had completed about 60 visors and 1,200 strap-locks as of April 1.
Sowyma, to the left, demonstrating how to thread the elastic band through the strap-lock.
A student placing holes in the plastic shield with a paper-punch.
USC students sticking foam tape to the visors.
“Interestingly, being able to work on this project has kept most thoughts of COVID19 and what’s happening at in the world at bay,” said Dr. Parshall. “Even as I read the news, it does not sink in what is happening except in those unguarded moments when I look out the window of the engineering lab, into the empty hallways, or notice the empty parking lots at school, or see a particularly poignant photo or video online. I am tremendously thankful to be here at GSSM and to have the resources to continue teaching our students face-to-face.”
Dr. Parshall is aspiring to recruit additional volunteers with 3D printers, and others who would be interested in helping to assemble the shields for hospitals in the Pee Dee region. If you or someone you know would like to volunteer for this project, please contact Dr. Elaine Parshall.