With 3D printers, it’s possible to print anything imaginable. Whether it’s a replica of a bone from a CT scan or even life-saving personal protective equipment (PPE). The team at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine has printed over 80 plastic face shields to protect employees at the Veterinary Medical Center, conserve PPE for human use and in response to the national shortage of PPE.
Recognizing a need
Tatiana Motta, DVM, MS, associate professor of small animal orthopedic surgery, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, watched as COVID-19 progressed rapidly through China and Italy. She realized that recommendations would evolve from physical distancing to wearing more intensive PPE. Dr. Motta knew a massive amount of face shields would be needed to keep team members, clients and pets safe.
Veterinary professionals are often not able to practice physical distancing with their patients so an alternative protection was needed. Face shields are not commonly worn by veterinarians, thus the Veterinary Medical Center did not have a current stock of face shields for team members.
Dr. Motta teamed (left) up with Sean McCready (right), an instructional designer at the College of Veterinary Medicine, to brainstorm different face shield options to produce. They printed a few prototypes and presented these to the Veterinary Medical Center’s COVID-19 taskforce. After making a few small tweaks to the face shield prototype, they began mass producing face shields using the 3D printers.
“The arrival of COVID-19 generated uncertainty and challenged our community. We needed to adapt fast while facing an unknown situation. While some members of our college worked on strategies to address the situation, Dr. Tatiana Motta and Sean McCready had the initiative to use our own resources to help our college,” said Dubra Diaz-Campos, DVM, PhD, assistant professor of diagnostic and clinical microbiology in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences.
“They surprised us by providing 3D printed face shields to the personnel of the VMC with the goal of protecting them while we keep providing service to our community. As the infection control officer of the VMC, I will always be grateful to Tatiana and Sean,” she said.
The College of Veterinary Medicine has four 3D printers in the Clinical Skills Lab. The printers were used to create educational prototypes like canine leg bone replicas for students to use in surgical training workshops. CT scans from patients at the Veterinary Medical Center could be used to produce identical three dimensional bone models. But now, all four 3D printers are dedicated to printing face shields.
Faculty, staff and student workers are also sewing reusable cloth masks for staff to wear.
Mass producing face shields is not the same as printing a few bone replicas. Time is of the essence and changes have to be made quickly.
“When printing prototypes for teaching, we typically work on project improvements and redesign the final prototype and many times as needed. Meaning it will take seven to 10 days for us to reach an approved final prototype,” Dr. Motta said.
“Now, we had to work really fast and jump into mass production in a couple of days. Some adjustments were being made while the production was already happening.”
How they are printed
Each face shield takes about two to three hours to print. Once the visor part of the shield is printed, sharp corners need to be sanded down. Then elastic cloth bands are added and the transparent plastic sheet is attached the visor head piece.
Unlike a cloth face mask, face shields work as a physical barrier to protect the whole face and prevent a person from touching their face. The combination of a cloth face mask and a reusable face shield increases the level of protection against COVID-19 for workers that must stay less than six feet apart. At the Veterinary Medical Center, staff wear both cloth masks and face shields.
“No PPE is ever going to be comfortable to wear, but considering all the sources and possibilities, the face shields are one of the least disruptive ones,” said Dr. Motta.
Karin Zuckerman, MHSA, MBA, director of the Veterinary Medical Center, said now it is extremely important to conserve PPE while still keeping staff safe.
“The fact that the cloth masks can be washed and sterilized, and the face shields disinfected, enables us to provide needed PPE for our team, while also supporting our conservation efforts,” she said. “We are so fortunate to have Dr. Motta and Sean McCready in our college, as well as the many other team members who have been making these cloth masks for the VMC.”
So far, over 80 facial shields have been printed and the plan is to produce as many as possible, not only for the Veterinary Medical Center but to give to anyone in the community who might need one.