As our world continues to navigate the COVID-19 health crisis, countries’ efforts to quarantine and isolate are taking effect to protect their citizens. We are seeing the curve begin to flatten in countries, with some reopening with no signs of the virus altogether.
The United States continues to make health decisions state by state, with many working from home and only certain businesses reopening. Essential workers remain working in their workspaces. Just as every citizen is advised by the CDC to wear proper face covering in public, essential workers in Pennsylvania are mandated to wear proper face masks to help provide another germ barrier on top of social distancing.As this mandate came rather quickly, many companies are still working to obtain proper masks, with many employees having to make-do with fabric such as scarves or other fabric material. On the other hand, some companies with proper equipment were able to take advantage of their industrial machinery to fabricate face coverings for their employees.
A phrase that has become familiar to those that are accustomed to air travel, “Please, put your own mask on before helping others,” has become deeply personal and significantly more meaningful to our society today. It represents the idea that in order for us to be the best and most effective that we can be in helping others, we must not lose sight of the importance of caring for ourselves and those that are in our most direct lines of responsibility. By endeavoring to provide PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) to our employees, where none is readily available for purchase during this critical time, the engineering team at Liberty has endeavored to ‘re-tool’ and ‘re-purpose’ resources and materials to help meet the need.
Just like our engineers utilized 3D printers to create the “Sneeze Guard” to wrap around our receptionist’s desk in the main lobby, our engineers also utilized their design skills to manufacture individual face guards for employees. These face guards and hat clips mitigate the risk of germs spreading between employees as they work on assemblies.
The company arranged engineer Sheila Nettles’ schedule so she could sew handmade face masks for employees from home. While the company waited for masks to be ready, our engineers used the Stratasys Fortus 380MC and 450MC to create 80 face shields and hat clips, which were originally distributed to one specific company location and have expanded as required from there.
The two-step process was performed in just one weekend to produce the majority of the face shields components required. With both industrial machines running almost non-stop for nearly 48 hours, it was nearly continual production process.
The process consists of placing a clear material in the machine to use as a foundation for the masks. The material would be printed on until all surface area was used up. Engineers then take .020 polycarbonate sheets and repurpose them for the shields rather than relying on the availability of stock material. At the time of production, that specific material was not available for distribution anywhere from Pennsylvania to Michigan.
The actual shields themselves look like a curved piece of polycarbonate glass that covers the whole face—adding an extra barrier to the face and face mask. The top of the shield has an elastic band to wrap around the head. Engineers even made a version with clips to clip to a baseball cap for those who work with hats on their heads.
In the meantime, Liberty has also offered these services to other companies in the Pittsburgh region to aid in the safety and health efforts during this time.
With diligence and effort, we can sometimes find the materials are often right under our noses to create something unique and innovative. During this time where citizens everywhere are taking this health crisis day by day, it is gratifying to use our passions and talents to help better the situation.