NAU’s Wearable Informatics Lab turns resources to 3-D printing face shields for health care providers

A professor and doctoral student from the School of Informatics, Computing, and Cyber Systems are leading an effort to supply regional and tribal health care with face shields during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In normal times, the focus of SICCS assistant professor Kyle N. Winfree’s Wearable Informatics Lab is on wearable technologies for health, assessment and enabling people with physical disabilities to move. One of the ongoing projects is working with a club that designs and 3-D prints prosthetics for children who are missing limbs.

Since the times now are anything but normal, Winfree has temporarily switched those resources to fabricating face shields. The two processes are similar, so the switch was easy. Using an open-source design listed on the National Institutes of Health website, Winfree is now printing face shields on 3-D printers from five NAU labs—his, SICCS professors Fatemeh Afghah and Abolfazi Razi, and mechanical engineering faculty John Tester and Sarah Oman.

The collaboration allows them to print about 30 shields a day, with students volunteering their time to get the work done.

“We’re working on different ways to more reliably print these shields, but this 30-per-day is about the rate we expect with all five printers running as we move forward,” Winfree said.

The team has supplied 40 shields to local health care providers so far and have about 100 more ready to ship out. Many of the shields are going to the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe.

The idea started a few weeks ago with Winfree and doctoral student Felicity Escargaza.

“Once we started talking about it, we realized this wasn’t just an idea; this was something we could put into place quickly,” Winfree said. “By the end of that day, she had a print in hand. We’re printing a slightly different mask now, but it’s important to note that we went from concept to product in about nine hours.”


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Heidi Toth | NAU Communications
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NAU Communications