WMU 3D Printers Make COVID-19 Gear | WMUK

WMU 3D Printers Make COVID-19 Gear

Apr 4, 2020

A WMU staff member tries on a 3D-printed face shield
Credit Mark Bugnaski / WMU

Hospitals everywhere face a severe shortage of personal protection equipment, or PPE, because of the COVID-19 crisis. But three departments at Western Michigan University are trying to help.


Dylan Ledbetter is the assistant director of the university's IT Lab.

"We are using our 3D printing resources that we already had on campus to be able to create face shields to assist local health care facilities with the PPE shortage that's affecting everyone across the globe."

Ledbetter says they're using a design from Sweden for the project.

"It was ourselves, the Office of Information Technology, along with the College of Aviation and the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. And we all kind of landed on the same design because of how easy it was to create and the limited number of resources that it took to create one."

Ledbetter says 3D printers at the two colleges are used to make the plastic headband for the shields. The clear plastic shield itself comes from a 1,000-foor roll donated by Fabri-Kal in Kalamazoo. The material is similar to that used for plastic page protectors.

The shields provide an extra layer of protection against the virus, Ledbetter says.

"It's basically used in addition to the N95 mask. It's basically for a splash guard for the face to protect against water and other types of debris like that."

Water droplets from coughs and sneezes can transmit the disease from one person to another.

Ledbetter says WMU is able to make over a hundred plastic face shields a day. He says they're going to the university's Sindecuse Health Center.

"And they have already been in contact with several other health facilities local to Kalamazoo to distribute (the shields). They're trying to be a hub for PPE so they can distribute from there. So they're helping us out a lot in that regard."

Ledbetter says the shields add an extra layer of protection when used with a N95 face mask.