A cadre of Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) faculty, students, staff and alumni is part of broader community effort of nearly 70 volunteers using their personal interest in additive manufacturing, and their home 3D printers, to produce protective face shields for everyone from essential workers locally to hospital employees across state lines.
Collectively, the group is connected to each other through their participation in a local volunteer group of designers and makers. And while each volunteer brings a different capability to the table, the NPS team just wanted to help make a difference.
“When we look back on this period in time, we all want to know that we did what we could to help,” said Brandon Naylor, NPS Faculty Research Associate. “These shields are going to healthcare workers, first responders, and service industry workers who are the most likely to contract and then spread the disease …If we can produce something that disrupts that cycle even a little, it’s hard to say what the extended effects of that will be.”
Everything started when U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Matthew Audette, an NPS alumnus, reached back as part of a USMC effort to secure a large supply of 3D printed face shields for a hospital in Golden, Colo. Working quickly, Naylor and a few others answered the call by using their own machines and resources. It didn’t take long to realize there would be a serious sustained demand for these shields at least in the near future, so they kept producing, and recruiting more volunteers.
“Several of us mentor local high school robotics teams, so we knew other people in the area who had the appropriate equipment and would want to help,” recalled Naylor. “We reached out and grew from there.”
While only about a third of the current group has the equipment to physically produce the masks, the rest are helping in other ways.
“People who do not have 3D printers help with fundraising efforts, distribution, and web design,” said Dr. Amela Sadagic, an NPS Research Associate Professor in the Computer Science Department and co-Director of the Center of Additive Manufacturing.
To date, the volunteers have produced more than 2,000 light-duty shields, and 250 heavy-duty shields, and delivered them to venues including the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, Stanford Hospital, and Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital; local grocery and general stores; shelters; local police and fire departments; the United States Postal Service; as well as several individuals in various service industries and skilled trades. They hope to be able to sustainably produce about 1,000 face shields each week while the demand is there for it.
“The best part about completing and delivering a batch of face shields is seeing what the recipients are doing to help in this crisis,” claimed Naylor. “Whether it’s a plumber who is just doing what he can to be sure he doesn’t spread the disease to his clients, or an organization working to secure resources for the local homeless community, it’s just reassuring to see so many people doing what they can in these uncertain times.”
“This is a unique moment in our lives,” said Sadagic. “This type of action and contribution to our community is deeply rewarding for volunteers – people feel involved, fulfilled, and have a strong sense of purpose.”
The team developed a website where visitors can learn more about the group, and where individuals and organizations on the front lines can request shields. The response, volunteers say, has been tremendous.
“When we first started producing the shields, I don’t think any of us anticipated how big this would become,” said Naylor. “We started with a little ragtag group of individuals with printers, and in a matter of weeks we’ve started working with healthcare professionals who helped us refine our designs, secured grants and received material donations from corporate sponsors to sustain our operations.
“This whole endeavor has just been an amazing experience, showing how resilient our community is and its willingness to come together,” he added.