By far, the most important thing you can do in your City is WORK TOGETHER. We had a clear goal, and we all worked together as a team. Decide on the PPE your medical professionals need, and work to build it as quickly as possible.
Feel free to use our stuff
We were taught a ton by Alan Puccinelli from “Operation Shields Up” in California. He gave us lessons in what to do and told us to learn from his mistakes and expand where we could. We took that to heart and now pass that same offer along to you. All of our files, including our mold designs are here. Feel free to use whatever you like in order to fight COVID in your city.
Find Out What Your Hospitals Need
It is essential to work immediately with the local hospitals in your area to understand what they actually need for their doctors and nurses. It is very possible that they will have a preference for the design of the protective equipment, or recommendations for processing.
How to Make the Head Band
You should immediately explore injection molding or another rapid manufacturing processes. These solutions have the ability to produce parts extremely quickly, however the tooling takes several weeks to fabricate. We have provided the files you need to do that here. While you are waiting on the tooling to be fabricated, you can start 3D printing.
During the beginning, the local area will need shields immediately. In this initial phase you can get started by 3D printing to address the urgent needs of the community. When choosing to 3D print as a team, It is extremely important that everyone prints the SAME file. Is there a better design than what your team decided to print? Yes probably…But don’t. If everyone prints the same file so processing the parts is much easier.
Our group decided to 3D print the Prusa RC3 (4 pin design).
How to make the transparent shield
The plastic shield can either be reusable, or disposable. The ideal thickness for a reusable shield is widely agreed to be .020” PETG. Because of supply chain issues, we elected to use 7 mil transparencies cut to fit. You can process these transparencies several ways. Initially we used a hole punch, but eventually we learned from MontgomeryFightingCovid that a jig can be made and over 100 transparencies can be drilled at a time. If you use this method, be sure to set your drill press to the lowest possible speed, to avoid melting. If lasers are used to cut thick PETG, take the time to optimize the beam path so the edges do not smell singed after the cut. In our experience, CNC routers seem to create a better product than laser cutters.
Packing the Kits
Nurses and Dental Hygienists volunteered to disinfect all 3D printed products before we packaged them for delivery. They understand how to operate in sterile fields, so they are by far the most qualified personnel for this task.
Making the Website and Taking Orders
Keep it simple. Focus on effectively communicating the key topics, like how to donate, how to request shields, or how to contribute to making them.
Although you can certainly use the latest tech stack, this is a time sensitive project, so getting quickly off the ground with a simple WordPress site and some Google Forms might be all you need. We made extensive use of Google Forms and Google Sheets to track requests, volunteers, and to handle logistics.
To distribute the shields, you may need to cold-call Doctor’s offices directly. Our Volunteer Nurses and Dental Hygienists were instrumental in making these social connections. Once you start delivering face shields, the word will spread quickly.
Funding the Project
Depending on the need in your area the first investment should be the injection mold. Time is of the essence, so choose the mold maker wisely. We had success with a small injection mold operation that had the ability to make the mold in house. Several other shops claimed to have the ability, but we went with a smaller shop who had a proven track record who also deeply cared about the project succeeding.
Besides the injection mold your other costs will be low at first. The most important issue is supply chain management. Do not assume online material sources will remain stocked. Purchase more material than you think you need, and get it before you need it.
Once injection molding comes online, the cost will rise exponentially, and it’s important to be prepared for this. Even small things like printing instruction sheets can cost hundreds of dollars over time. It may be difficult for hospitals or businesses to donate due to the fact that charitable giving must often be approved by the board of directors. Direct purchases however, are often easy for these organizations to facilitate.
Be prepared for demand to grow over time as word gets out. Also, at some point the nature of face shield requests may begin to shift from “emergency need” to local hospitals starting to stockpile resources. Once this happens our financial and material resources were depleted quickly. Once the front line workers are shielded, the quicker you can convert to a “pay” or set-donation model, the more sustainable your efforts will be.
Delivering Face Shields
One of the mistakes we made was trying to deliver the face shields ourselves. Often Doctor’s offices would be closed for the day without warning, leaving our volunteer drivers miles from home in an empty parking lot with a load full of face shields. We had some success with an app called Routific.
Ultimately we discovered it was more efficient to have the offices travel to a single pickup point to obtain their face shields.
Start Locally, and Expand Regionally
The people in most need in our area were those in rural communities, and nursing homes. Many large hospital systems had access to large supply chains and were able to get PPE, while those in rural communities were not. One of the issues we saw often is a hospital system would be given PPE, but it would not be issued to workers on the front lines until it was directly requested. Especially in large hospital systems, we saw dozens of requests from nurses in different units even weeks after the supply was on site.
Once our local area had been covered, we started to expand regionally and seek out other groups in out area doing similar things. We wish we had done this sooner. We found very knowledgeable people working towards the same goals as ourselves. Once we combined forces (into AlabamaFightingCOVID) we instantly became more effective, and were even able to expand well beyond our State. For example, we handled face shield frames, and Montgomery handled logistics through a local transit company who was willing to donate their delivery services.
Start Thinking About Sustainability
Given the nature of COVID-19, there will possibly be a need for PPE in your region far into the future. We have decided to team up with a local business and hand over our injection molds so they can continue to serve our area. As part of this agreement, they have agreed to donate a fixed percentage of both the profit and product back to our local community.