COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The University of South Carolina might be on lockdown, but the Mechanical Engineering and Computing Department is still hard at work on creative and innovative solutions to our nation’s most pressing problem.
After a period of about 24-48 hours brainstorming the best way to make it work, several faculty, staff, and students have now taken 3D printers home to create essential PPE for the folks down at the Medical University of South Carolina and potentially beyond.
“The headgear is actually 3D printed,” said adjunct professor, Sowmya Raghu. “There's a strap lock behind that it's also 3D printed. So, those two are the ones that are 3D printed and then we assemble them with foam and plastic on top of it.”
So how does it work? Engineers print the headband piece and the strap lock that secures the face shield around the back. Then, they attach a large piece of plastic with the foam cushion as a shield in the front.
Eight printers are currently at work. They can produce between 150 to 200 a day. Next week, UofSC will send an initial shipment of 500 shields to MUSC.
For some, the urge to create these was about meeting a greater need. For others, it was deeply personal. One engineer told WIS his mom is a nurse back in India so this truly hits home for him.
“We wanted to get this up and running and just contribute any way they can,” said Robin James, a Ph.D. candidate.
All of the staff interviewed for this story echoed a common feeling. They said after seeing visuals of doctors and nurses having to use trash bags in some cases to protect themselves without PPE, they wanted to do something to help.
One of the faculty members overseeing the project said the goal is to get a high quantity of products to hospitals in a short amount of time.
According to a university spokesperson, the shields cost $8-$10 to make. The department is fronting the cost and all labor is by volunteers.