3D-Printed Face Shield Project Underway in Fairfield Engineering Lab

3D-Printed Face Shield Project Underway in Fairfield Engineering Lab

(l-r) Drew Jobson '20 and Evan Fair '22 3D-print PPE face shields to donate to health care workers.

Fairfield University students from the School of Engineering and the Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies are filling PPE orders for Greenwich and Bridgeport hospitals, the Jewish Community Center, the New Haven Fire Department, and others, as requests pour in and generous donations hit their GoFundMe page.

We have branded each of our shields with the Fairfield University logo, to remind the health care workers who use them that the Fairfield community is thinking about them, praying for them, and will be there for them during and after the coronavirus.

— Lilliana Delmonico '20

It takes quite a bit of determination and ingenuity to launch a hands-on community service project across state lines while under a shelter-at-home mandate, but Fairfield nursing major Caroline Smith ’21 and bioengineering major Lilliana Delmonico ’20 have proven that with the right motivation — and the right friends — anything is possible.

Inspired by the heart-wrenching stories of health care workers on the front lines and news reports of critical Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) shortages in medical facilities across the country, Smith reached out by phone from her New Jersey home to Delmonico in Connecticut. She mentioned a family friend in Maryland who was organizing volunteers with access to 3D printers to produce PPE masks and face shields, and the idea to partner on a 3D-printed PPE project at Fairfield University took root.

“Being an engineer and a nurse, we both understand the importance of giving back and supporting our local community,” said Delmonico. “We thought this project aligned perfectly with the mission and values of our University, and felt we had to bring it to Fairfield.”

Their biggest obstacle — gaining access to campus, and more specifically, the 3D printers in the engineering lab — was overcome with the help of School of Engineering Dean Richard Heist and two friends who are among the few students remaining on campus because they are unable to travel home during quarantine: computer engineering major Andrew (Drew) Jobson ’20 and bioengineering major Evan Fair ’22. 

Dean Heist strongly supported the students' efforts, describing their initiative as "a manifestation of the overarching 'Service to Humanity' character" of both the nursing and engineering professions. After ensuring that social distancing and sanitary protocols would be followed, he granted the two on-campus engineers sole access to the school’s MakerBots and Taz6 3D printers. Jobson was eager to volunteer his equipment fluency and maintenance skills for the effort. “As vice president of the 3D Printing Club on campus and a senior,” he said, “I am looking to leave a positive impact.”

Fair, who is from South Africa, added, “I am thankful to have this opportunity to do what I love and develop something that will bring change, fight the pandemic … and save me from extreme boredom during this quarantine!”

In addition to help from the faculties of Fairfield’s nursing and engineering schools, the student volunteers have relied on Smith’s family friend in Maryland, Steve Saint-Amour, for advice on materials sourcing and file modifications as they manufacture their unique clear plastic PVC face shields and 3D-printed headbands, custom-designed for use over an N95 or surgical mask.

Delmonico pointed out the most unique feature of their product: “We have branded each of our shields with the Fairfield University logo, to remind the health care workers who use them that the Fairfield community is thinking about them, praying for them, and will be there for them during and after the coronavirus.”

In the lab, Jobson and Fair have worked hard to optimize the output of each 3D printer, while minimizing the manual labor required. As a result, they estimate that with a steady supply of materials, they have the capacity to create 650 PPEs per week.

Noted Fair, “Each shield might only make a minor impact on the one person who receives it. But if the four of us are able to produce and distribute 650 face shields per week, suddenly the sum of all these small [efforts] adds up to become something substantial in our community.”

Much to the students’ amazement, response to promotion of their efforts online has been swift and strong. Within 24 hours of posting about the project on social media, they made connections with Greenwich Hospital and other facilities within the Yale-New Haven Health System, received four order requests, and saw a handful of generous donations hit their GoFundMe page.

Shipments are now being prepared for the Jewish Community Center, the New Haven Fire Department, the Little Sisters of the Poor Nursing Home, and others. Donations (which currently exceed $800) and requests continue to pour in.

As the team’s first PPEs reach brave health care workers on the front lines, Delmonico said she and her friends will solicit feedback from users to make design improvements as necessary. Asked what this project means to her, she offered, “First, I am using, really, all of the skills — in engineering and communication — I learned in my four years at Fairfield, to make this happen.

“Second, since my senior year was cut short, this project has allowed me to reconnect with three good friends, each lending our strengths to one last project that truly reflects Fairfield’s Jesuit spirit.”

“And third, I feel blessed to be able to help our health care workers during this time. It is one thing to social distance and stay at home, but it is truly another to actively engage in a project that will directly affect those who are risking their lives every day for us.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up to fund the Fairfield University 3D PPE Project, and donations can also be made by Venmo to @lilydelmonico. Requests for face shields can be made by email to lilliana.delmonico@student.fairfield.edu or caroline.smith1@student.fairfield.edu

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