Though engineering students won’t use the University of Georgia instructional labs for the rest of the semester, the space isn’t collecting dust for the next couple months, either.
The UGA College of Engineering will use the instruction labs to make face shields for health care workers, which aim to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to health care workers.
Roger Hilten, the instructional lab manager, is leading the project, which includes students and staff working full time to get the face shields to local hospitals.
Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center approached the university about creating these face shields, which spurred the project, Hilten said. Piedmont would not confirm this request.
As of Monday, the College of Engineering produced about 50 face shields and hope to have about 500 by the end of the week for the hospital, which is more than the hospital’s request, said Bryce Schuebert, the student project manager.
“Since COVID-19 is going to get bad in the next couple weeks, we felt like it was almost unethical not to do something right now,” Schuebert said.
The team started with using a design made in-house, but they will transition to a design made by the Georgia Institute of Technology once they get the right materials and tools. By using the same design, the two colleges will be able to mass produce a standardized face shield that hospitals across the state will know to trust.
Hilten said the first full day of production was April 1, and they planned to make 600 clear face shields and 150 plastic frames.
The face shields aim to extend the life of personal protective equipment such as face masks and further protect a health care worker’s eyes, mouth and nose from droplets that may spread COVID-19.
The reusable face shield can be mass produced with a laser cutter, waterjet cutter and injection molding, according to the Georgia Tech site. 3D printers can also be used but have a lower production rate.
Hilten said the biggest hurdle is gathering materials since the plastics used for the face shield are currently in high demand.
Based on these designs and the machinery available at UGA, Hilten said the college is projected to be able to produce about 200 face shields per day, though this number may fluctuate depending on resources available.
“We’re trying to make as many of these as we can as quickly as we can,” Hilten said.
The face shields are 14 inches tall and 22 inches wide. They’re made from a clear plastic with another plastic frame around the forehead. There’s also a pad between the shield and forehead, and either velcro or elastic keeps the shield secured.
#CommitTo lending a hand: using the resources in our machine shop and other facilities, we're fabricating face shields for hospitals, one of the most pressing needs identified by medical professionals on the front lines of the #COVID19 pandemic. #UGA pic.twitter.com/wKujW1PK1E— UGA Engineering (@UGA_Engineering) March 27, 2020
Schuebert said the project included a lot of trial and error with the creation of the prototype masks, and he’s excited they now have finalized designs that will be implemented.
“This is the most exciting project I’ve been a part of. I’m getting to use my engineering skills while helping protect doctors and nurses from the virus,” Schuebert said.