DMT Ramps Up PPE Production
May 29, 2020
Since partnering with local nonprofit Maker Nexus seven weeks ago, the 3D printing experts in De Anza’s DMT Department have been busy. Mike Appio, Department Chair, and a team of four DMT staffers have been running the Additive Manufacturing Lab’s 3D printers seven days a week, 20 hours per day, to turn out parts for protective face shields.
Maker Nexus donates and distributes the fabricated equipment to medical personnel throughout the Bay Area and beyond. The initiative has rapidly evolved to high-volume production at Maker Nexus and its army of more than 500 volunteer “makers.” To date, the Sunnyvale outfit has delivered over 40,000 of the shields, with orders pending for over 11,000 more.
“It’s been a big push and has demanded great teamwork from us, but we’ve really nailed down a production flow that has enabled us to make over 1000 parts per week, week after week,” says Appio.
To date, the team, comprised of Additive Manufacturing Instructors Corey Dunsky and Brandon Boulden, CAD/AM Lab Coordinator Max Gilleland, and Machine Tool Technician Agustin Espino Diaz, has printed over 6,000 parts for Maker Nexus.
“Based on the success we’ve had and excellent coordination with Maker Nexus, we’ve expanded the manufacturing processes and started ramping up printing of a new medical device, along with the face shields,” adds Appio.
Recently, the team began using its laser cutter to pattern the transparent plastic sheets that provide the face shields’ protective barrier. Maker Nexus’s success in transitioning production of several shield components to high-volume manufacturing processes has shifted demand for the 3D printed parts to other components, which are being fabricated by the volunteer maker community in large quantities.
“As a result,” team leader Dunsky notes, “the laser cutting became the rate-limiting production step. So Maker Nexus asked us to help with that, too. We were able to respond quickly and have been cutting shields for four weeks.” To date, the De Anza team has delivered over 2,900 cut shields to its nonprofit partner.
This past two weeks, the group has again expanded its scope by 3D-printing a new device. The device, designed by a Bay Area maker in cooperation with a local Kaiser hospital, is an adapter to be used in Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPRs). Unlike N95 masks, PAPR units are reusable and give their users complete protection from airborne liquids and particulates.
Many hospitals in the United States may have these systems stockpiled from the 2014 Ebola epidemic. One of the most common is made by 3M, but the 2014-era hoods do not mate up with the connections on the newer 3M VersaFlo PAPR respirators. The device now being fabricated in the DMT lab is an adapter that allows the older hoods to work with the new air supplies.
With this design, hospitals with stockpiles of the older systems should be able to reuse them to protect doctors and nurses. So far, the Kaiser system has requested at least 850 of the adapters and De Anza’s team has committed to printing 300 of them.
Department head Appio explains, “Our industrial 3D printers have capabilities that are particularly well-suited to making these parts, which have some precision details such as screw threads. We’ve verified that we’re able to make high-quality parts that the desktop machines, typically found in homes and maker spaces, struggle with.”
Foothill-De Anza’s administration has been pleased that in this time of urgent need, the college’s 3D printing educational resources have been rapidly pressed into service to the medical community.
Appio sums up, “We were able to demonstrate that the flexible equipment in our lab could be rapidly deployed to help out. We’re participating in a national volunteer 3D printing initiative that was organized quickly, effectively calling on the Maker community to respond to the COVID PPE emergency. Our department’s broad range of industrial and desktop printers, as well as our laser cutter, have seen a level of use in this high-production trial that we’ve never experienced before, and both the equipment and the team have performed quite well. Eventually, we’ll use this experience to teach our students about the factors needed for success in scaling 3D printing to production levels.”
April 6, 2020
The DMT Department is joining with a nonprofit group called Maker Nexus that is producing transparent plastic face shields, using designs vetted by medical personnel. The shields are being delivered directly to workers at local hospitals and medical offices.
Face shields are among the types of personal protective equipment that are in short supply around the country, as health workers and emergency responders care for thousands of people who are infected with the new coronavirus.
Maker Nexus has already delivered hundreds of units to workers at Bay Area medical facilities, but it has a backlog of requests for thousands more.
De Anza’s DMT program started production work last week to make the plastic headbands that hold the transparent shields. The department is using equipment in its Additive Manufacturing Lab, including industrial 3D-printing machines and desktop 3D printers, according to Mike Appio, the department chair.
Department members – including instructors Corey Dunsky and Brandon Boulden and lab coordinator Max Gilleland – will operate the machines while closely observing health and safety protocols. These include social distancing, wearing appropriate protective equipment and regularly sterilizing all equipment and surfaces during the project.
"We know there's a critical need for this equipment,” Appio said. “We’re happy that we can use the De Anza College DMT program's equipment and skills to help with this effort."