Teams at both of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s residential campuses in Daytona Beach, Florida, and Prescott, Arizona, are fabricating masks and face shields to help protect healthcare workers amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Image credit: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Fifty students on the Daytona Beach Campus are fabricating 5,000 face shields using mylar, adhesive foam and elastic ribbon for distribution to local hospitals Halifax Health and AdventHealth. Many of the students doing the work have lost their regular employment because of the global pandemic.

“This is an opportunity for them to earn some needed cash, as a number of students are struggling financially after the loss of jobs,” said Embry-Riddle’s Student Engagement & Student Union Executive Director Karin Gollin. “It’s also an opportunity for them to make a contribution to the local community, which is also a powerful motivator for them.”

Some of the students whose resources have remained unaffected by the crisis have chosen to volunteer, and all materials for the masks are being provided by Embry-Riddle.

While making the shields, the students are distanced from each other, with a mass-production plan that keeps both the students and the products safe, said Gollin, who added that the effort is mostly student-run. “I have enormous confidence in our students to problem-solve and adapt as things get going,” she said.

Embry-Riddle Print Shop Manager Bob Doxie sourced all of the materials and figured out the process for assembling the masks.

Matthew Glass, a fourth-year Aeronautical Science major, said making the masks gives him "a mission and a sense of purpose" amid the pandemic. "With a project like this, you don't get to necessarily see the effects of your actions, but you know that you are saving lives."

On Embry-Riddle’s Prescott Campus, the manager of the university’s Rapid Prototyping Lab, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Mehran Andalibi, is 3D printing face shield headpieces and Jared Vanatta, the manager of the Machine Shop, is finishing the fabrication by adding the plastic shields themselves.

According to College of Engineering, Dean Ron Madler, 130 shields will go to Yavapai Regional Medical Center and more will be fabricated as more material for the clear shield, which is in high demand, becomes available.

Vanatta has come up with an idea to make the internet-sourced design easier to assemble, and that design change may be incorporated, said Madler.

Across Embry-Riddle, faculty, many different students and staff are pitching in to help during the pandemic including Tanner Freeze, a freshman in Aerospace Engineering, and Alan Newingham, a desktop technician in Embry-Riddle’s IT department.

Freeze started 3D printing headpieces for clear plastic face shields at home in North Carolina after his aunt, who is a nurse, said they were needed. Researching online, he discovered that 3D printers had started to mobilize to make the headpieces, which hold the sheet of protective plastic in place.

“I’m currently working on printing as many as I can,” said Freeze, who used his own money to buy himself a second 3D printer and to purchase the clear plastic to make the shields themselves so he can provide a finished product. “Since I started, I’ve gotten requests to send them to several different healthcare locations in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.”

Producing about 24 of the headpieces per day, Freeze said he has contacted friends who are also 3D printers “and we started to coordinate and organize to mass-produce these and get them out to the people who need them.”

Meanwhile, Newingham is producing headpieces for face shields and face masks made of an antimicrobial material that contains nanoparticles of copper. Newingham is the owner of a 3D printing company known as 3D Dad.

Newingham first made a specific model of face mask that was requested of him by Sinai and Mercy hospitals in New York. He then contacted a hospital in Kirkland, Washington, after hearing that on March 10, they had only seven days’ worth of masks remaining and had begun rationing them and reusing them.

Bearing the entire cost himself, Newingham sent 433 masks to Kirkland and 111 each to Sinai and Mercy, plus distributing about 30 to Emergency Medical Technicians and elderly people.

Newingham has so far printed 200 pounds of filament, at about $10 per pound.

“I just feel if I don’t help, who will,” he said. “Maybe if I do it with limited funds and resources, it will get others to do it as well.”

At the beginning of this month, Newingham switched to making the headpieces for face shields and shipped 1,000 of them. He also entered into a partnership with a company called Copper3d, Newingham said, which produces the antimicrobial material Newingham is using to produce a a newly designed face mask.