UJ team uses 3D printers to make face shields for medical staff
A team at the University of Johannesburg is using 3D printing to produce surgical face shields to help meet the rapidly growing need for personal protective equipment for health care workers during the coronavirus crisis.
So far, 10 shields have been distributed to various campus clinics at the university, with another 15 set to be delivered to Netcare911, according to UJ’s Makerspace expert, Rudie Strauss.
This comes at a time when state suppliers are scrambling to secure essential equipment such as ventilators, masks, gloves, respirators and sanitisers from local and international manufacturers.
The protective equipment is being distributed for free to health care professionals.
A piece of polythene sheeting is attached to the visor to act as a protective barrier between health care workers and patients. The polythene can either be sanitised between uses or replaced.
At least 10 shields can be produced each day at the UJ Makerspace lab, based on the Doornfontein campus. However, the team is working on designs solely involving laser cutting that could increase the rate of production to more than 50 a day.
“The equipment is in demand right now as we are being forced to come up with improvised solutions to address the lack of traditional equipment and devices. Also, this material that we are using is hard to find. The dead frames for the face shields are made by 3D printers and the shields are laser-cut from sheets of old and thick transparencies,” Strauss said.
One of the unforeseen advantages of these face shields is that they are recycling old transparency sheets that would otherwise be adding to SA's plastic pollution.
Strauss said though the shields are not made to medical standards, they can be printed on demand for use when better alternatives are not available.