In response to the community’s shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), The University of Tampa is now making protective face shields for health care workers — including 100 shields going to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg — using the tools from its digital fabrication lab, or Fab Lab.
Emma Quintana, coordinator of UT’s Fab Lab (a workshop equipped with tech-enabled tools for students in the arts to foster creativity and innovation located inside R.K. Bailey Art Studios), is making protective face shields — visors that wrap around the head and include a plastic shield that is long enough to cover health-care workers’ glasses and N95 respirator.
She is using equipment from the Fab Lab: 3D printers to create the shield frame and a laser cutter to precisely cut the clear plastic shield. Then she adds elastic to the back. She was inspired by others in the global Fab Lab community who were sharing instructions on how to print 3D face shields.
“There is a thriving open source 3D printing community, and many makers around the country are working to address the PPE (personal protective equipment) shortages within their local communities,” said Quintana. “These recent shortages and the role local makers are taking by becoming small scale manufacturers show the flexibility of these spaces and the ingenuity of the making community: arts and engineers working together.”
Since spring break, Quintana has been reaching out to health care workers, testing sites and hospitals to see if the Fab Lab could assist with the shortages. Many have accepted, including a COVID-19 testing site in Tampa. On April 3, she will donate100 face shields to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.
It takes about six hours from start to finish to create one face shield. Quintana has been utilizing all eight 3D printers in the lab, testing prototypes and refining as she goes. It’s making an impact already.
“The appreciation that I’ve received from the few individuals I’ve donated to is heartwarming,” Quintana said. “We are all doing our best for others during this time by socially isolating and modifying our daily routines, our workdays and our academic lives. I’m giving back in my own my way, but so are many others.”
While she works alone in the lab on campus, Quintana said she feels far from isolated, since she is in contact with other makers from other institutions regularly.
“It’s an amazing feat we are accomplishing, and it gives many of us a way to give back to our real heroes, medical workers,” Quintana said. “The idea that we don’t have to wait for factories abroad to deliver these life-saving objects is pretty incredible.”
The Fab Lab offers an architecturally sophisticated, technologically advanced space for students in the arts. The Fab Lab focuses on entrepreneurs and gives the students, as well as faculty, the opportunity to turn their ideas and dreams into prototypes and products. The imaginative and aesthetically focused spaces create an ideal environment for art and design majors to foster creativity and innovation.
The University of Tampa is a private, comprehensive university located on 110 acres on the riverfront in downtown Tampa. Known for academic excellence, personal attention and real-world experience in its undergraduate and graduate programs, the University serves approximately 10,000 students from 50 states and about 130 countries.