People Around the World Are 3D-Printing Face Shields to Battle the Coronavirus
An informal network of thousands of printers is emerging to provide critical medical supplies
On March 18, Michael Perina’s five-year-old son was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia and trouble breathing. Perina wasn’t allowed to see his son, who had been brought to the intensive care unit and was being tested for the coronavirus.
“It was basically, ‘What do I do at this point?’” says Perina, who runs a 3D-printing shop in Staten Island, New York. As he waited for results, he sought out ways to help. After seeing reports of massive shortages of personal protective equipment plaguing medical professionals, he decided to start printing face shields—transparent disposable full-face masks that help block transmission of the coronavirus.
“Instead of just sitting here doing nothing and feeling helpless, I can get the machines running and do something that would help the cause,” he says. Perina launched a GoFundMe, raising nearly $10,000 for printing materials. Perina says he is now equipped to produce up to 4,000 shields per day.
Medical facilities in the United States are facing a dire shortage of face shields, N95 masks, and other personal protective equipment, as states literally bid against each other to procure the nation’s dwindling supply. Face shields aren’t perfect, and they aren’t a replacement for a proper N95 mask, but they act as a physical barrier that can protect health care workers’ faces from external fluids. While conventional manufacturers scramble to ramp up production, independent 3D printers around the world are stepping up to meet the demand, creating an international network of DIY manufacturing.
Perina and many of the 3D printers manufacturing shields around the world are using a design developed by Josef Průša, founder of a Czech 3D-printer company called Prusa. The same day Perina’s son was admitted to the hospital, Průša uploaded a file to his 3D-printer company’s website that would allow anyone with a 3D printer to make a face shield.