Volunteers use 3D printers to make face shields for Rochester hospitals
As a data engineer, Coty Pastene solves problems. So when her wife, Katie Pastene, a nurse practitioner at a Rochester hospital, shared her worries about dwindling supplies of the masks that health care workers wear to guard against coronavirus exposure, Pastene sought a way to help.
She found one in 3D printing. Like many people across the country, once she learned that 3D printers could be used to make face shields for health care workers, she set out to start making them. Pastene is also marshaling owners of the devices to join in the effort, and her campaign is gaining steam.
Pastene has set up a webpage, bit.ly/Faceshieldsroc, where people can sign up to help make the protective equipment or donate needed supplies, such as printer filament to make the headband and transparency sheets for the face covering. Medical institutions can also request shields through the site.
"My biggest priority is how do we protect the health care providers that are protecting our families and are risking their lives every day,” Pastene said during a phone interview.
Pastene began recruiting 3D printing enthusiasts Saturday, when she posted about her effort on a few community Facebook pages. As a result, the Webster school district loaned her a 3D printer and provided her with a supply of the plastic filament it uses. By Monday, she’d recruited four people to aid in the fabrication efforts.
On Tuesday afternoon, the group dropped off 46 face shields to Rochester General Hospital, Pastene said.
The group is now starting work to fulfill a request from Oneida Health, a rural hospital and medical system that covers an area east of Syracuse, for 100 face shields. Pastene said she’s happy to help non-local hospitals, though Rochester’s hospitals remain the priority.
"If people want to help, I either want them to help with time, with production, or with giving donations of materials so we keep it simple," Pastene said.
Face shields have become a high-demand item for hospitals and other health care institutions, which are trying to build up supplies of personal protective equipment in the event that coronavirus cases surge. The URMC and Rochester Regional Health systems are both working to build their stockpiles of face shields, according to their spokespeople.
To help meet the need, factories across the country are revamping product lines and repurposing production equipment to make the shields. Simultaneously, tech-minded DIYers have started using 3D printers to make face shields for workers in hospitals and other medical facilities.
Pastene works remotely as a data engineer for Shaw Industries, a Georgia-based flooring manufacturer that’s started providing face shields to health care workers in northern Georgia. Engineers make the shields on 3D printers in a company makerspace. That work got her thinking about how she could start a grassroots effort to provide the same protective equipment to Rochester-area medical professionals.
For the effort, Pastene and her crew are working with an open source design developed in Sweden and approved by staff at Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City. Pastene has received guidance from a group at Cornell that is also producing face shields. On Saturday, NPR reported that the Cornell effort had produced 400 face shields in a matter of days.
Face shields “are definitely useful,” said Veronica Chiesi-Brown, a spokesperson for Rochester Regional Health. They protect workers’ faces from spray and other fluids, which reduces their chance of infection while also extending the lives of face masks, which are in increasingly short supply. Both Rochester Regional and University of Rochester Medical Center are sanitizing and reusing N95 masks, when appropriate.
On Tuesday, both systems announced that they’ll be requiring all staff, faculty, and the limited visitors in their hospitals to wear face masks to help limit the spread of coronavirus. Dr. Robert Mayo, chief medical officer of Rochester Regional, said the system’s staff will wear face shields with masks in clinical environments.
Dr. Michael Apostolakos, URMC’s chief medical officer, also said the hospital system will use face shields to help preserve face masks.
Rochester Regional has already been taking donations of personal protective equipment. The hospital system recently was given thousands of face shields manufactured by Century Mold, Chiesi-Brown said. The company has, for the time being, shifted its operations from making injection molded plastic auto parts to producing the shields.
But Rochester Regional wants smaller donations, too, and is grateful for whatever people can provide, Chiesi-Brown said.
“I don’t think we’d turn down anything at this point,” Chiesi-Brown said.
Jeremy Moule is CITY’s news editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.