Fairfield University Team
Our team is composed of 3 students from Fairfield University in Connecticut: Lilliana Delmonico ‘20, bioengineering; Evan Fair ‘22, bioengineering; and Andrew Jobson ‘20, computer engineer. Being college students, our lives were drastically transformed when the coronavirus pandemic hit the US. Being either marooned on campus or at home, we found we had more time on our hands. While some spent this time taking up a new hobby or completing unfinished projects, we found a way to put our individual talents in design, 3-D printing, and engineering to good use. A group of five engineering and nursing students began a 3-D printed PPE initiative out of our university’s engineering lab. We decided to mass produce face shields for healthcare workers, nonprofits, and even our university with the intention of filling the high demand for PPE in our community. This took a lot more initiative and engineering than we ever imagined though, and served as a great design challenge for us during this time of quarantine!
Why Our Design?
Our face shields are meant to be used as an added layer of protection against COVID-19. It prevents users from subconsciously touching his or her face. Our model allows for the user to wear most medical grade masks, cloth face coverings, or glasses comfortably underneath. The design lends itself to good circulation of air and are virtually fog proof. Since they are completely made of plastic, they are easy to clean and thus can be reused. In addition, over 180 headbands can fit in a standard UV sanitation cabinet for easy and effective sanitation. They are also a general “one size fits all,” meaning they can fit most head types without being uncomfortable in any regard. These are very easy to 3-D print and have very minimal plastic waste while printing. One of the unique features is their ability to be personalized. Being from a university, we added our Fairfield University logo to the shields. But it is very simple to change this logo to reflect our donors, as seen in the Fairfield Prep models in the files link below. This puts a distinctive spin on our design.
Our design is an enhanced version of the 3DVerkstan 3-D printed headband. Originally, the design was meant for a 8.5” x 11” sheet of clear plastic to be hole punched and fitted onto the headband. We found many issues with mass producing these shields. The forehead section was too small, causing the plastic sheet to rest against your nose, leaving very little room for wearing a mask underneath. Additionally, the distance of the shield to the user’s face caused the shield to fog up. Also, the headband was extremely weak at the corners, causing the headbands to break when someone tried to put it on. With these issues noticed, we choose to do some genuine hacking in order to distribute a quality product.
The first step we took was to print out one of the original 3DVerkstan headbands which was scaled for the best fit. Then we took the headband and a ruler and manually measured each section to recreate the headband in Solidworks. This was key to our design since it gave us the ability to modify the headband as we wished. The next step was to go through multiple iterations of design. Each iteration focuses on the issues stated before. After 15 iterations we now have our final product. Check out our final models below!
The design elements which have evolved into our headband has made it practical for manufacturing and for long term usage. Extending the forehead section of the headband puts perfect distance between the shield and the user’s mouth and nose. It leaves enough room to comfortably wear a larger mask or glasses underneath. This extruded section at the forehead was hollowed out to reduce the amount of filament used. Later on we were able to put logos into this blank section which makes the headbands unique to the places we sent them. The corners of the headband are now rounded, moving the weakest point further down the headband which is significantly more flexible. This structural change has allowed us to be able to mitigate the amount of “failed” prints and save precious time and materials. The overall thickness of the headband was increased to add comfort to the forehead section. We elongated the headband to place the pressure on the back of the skull where it is least sensitive. Since we mass produce these shields we developed a method of stacking the headbands so we can print multiple at a time. This allows us to print up to 25 at a time on one printer. This takes about 42 hours to print on a MakerBot. But these printers run continuously. And with the aid of 13 printers in total (2 Taz models (makes about 16 in 30 hours), 3 Ender models (makes about 20 in 35 hours), and 6 MakerBots, we can produce about 300 headbands per week. But we completely automated ourselves out of the printing process allowing us to work 24/7 with minimum effort. Life hack!
We also had to hack our way into being able to use different face shields. We originally used the 8.5” x 11” sheet of clear plastic with three pegs which secured the shield to the headband. These were sturdy and usable for our headband model, but were sharp-edged and not automatically cut to scale. In addition, there was much manual labor that went into making these shields ready for distribution; we had to 3-hole punch these shields and the user had to round out the edges if they so chose. We started receiving face shields from InLine Plastics in Shelton, CT These shields came with two hole punches on each side, and had a curved bottom. After many iterations we successfully adjusted the pegs on our headband to fit these shields. We even named these headbands “TheDominicSpecial”after our professor whose wife generously donated these shields from InLine Plastics. Without the hacker spirit we wouldn’t have considered the modifications which made this project successful.
Product Successes (thus far!)
Our team has distributed 3313 shields to healthcare workers, nonprofits, and even our own university community within the 4 months we have been working on this project. We have distributed within 5 different states and have had articles written about our efforts in press within CT, MA, and even TX. We received remarkable feedback from our users and they have proven to be effective as face shields, especially in hospital settings where they are worn for long periods of time. Many of our users find our shields superior in that they are easy to assemble, comfortable, and practical.
What we learned
Throughout engineering school we learn about the engineering design process: what the steps are, how it is conducted, and what it takes to complete and market a product. Engaging in this project allowed us to see this engineering design process in action. We began with a problem, came up with a solution, designed (and redesigned) a product, manufactured this product, and distributed it to actual users with great success. This experience demonstrated service through engineering in action and allowed us to use our talents to help those in need. The reason we entered this hackathon is because we are all hackers at heart. We modified something from someone else and made it completely epic. That is just what hackers do. We look at things that aren’t desirable and change it into something we are proud of. We took a decent design, "hacked" it, and ended up with a product which we can proudly donate to health care workers, nursing homes, and anyone else who may need PPE.
What's next for Our Team
With the COVID-19 case numbers steadily declining in CT, as well as the rise of injection molding, the need for PPE is very much decreasing. Yet, we have been able to use our 3D printing experience to enhance the 3D printing community on our university campus. We look forward to taking our experiences within this project, and at this hackathon, to continue taking our talents in engineering and doing good.