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Boise State University using 3D printers to make face shields for Treasure Valley hospitals

With help from the community, the university has created printed materials for over 1,000 face shields, with no slow-down in production.

BOISE, Idaho — Hospitals across the country are experiencing shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers.

Boise State University is using its 3D printer in the Albertsons Library MakerLab to assemble face shields, and teamed up with the College of Engineering’s Innovation Studio to laser-cut the plastic pieces for the shield.

“We are working with Saint Alphonsus, going back and forth with our design,” said Amanda Baschnagel, manager at the MakerLab. “We will be working with Saint Luke’s to share our tools with them.”

Local hospitals gave Boise State the green light to begin production for several thousands of face shields.

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The MakerLab begins by printing the visor for the face shields on its 3D printer. The product is finished once the plastic shield is attached in the Engineering Innovation Studio across campus.

“The face shield covers up your face and curves around the sides slightly,” said Innovation Studio manager Griff Allen. “We’ve made the tops solid at the request of the hospitals as well.”

Credit: Chase Biefeldt/KTVB
Griff Allen shows a completed faceshield

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According to Allen, the biggest shortages in Treasure Valley hospitals are N95 respirator masks.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have a way to produce a certified N95 mask,” he said. “However, there are a lot of folks in the valley here who are custom making their own face masks with different materials, and the feedback that we’ve gotten is when you combine a homemade face mask with a face shield, it really makes it much more effective.”

RELATED: How Idaho's health care workers are dealing with a scarcity of N95 masks

Baschnagel said many people are helping with production of the face shields.

“Amy Ecchione, the head of our department, is leading the charge,” she said. “We’ve collaborated with tons of faculty and staff and students at BSU who are offering their design skills or their tools or talents, but I think most excitingly we are working with many members of the community who are donating their time to 3D print for us.”

Baschnagel said although the university has already printed a considerable amount of masks, the design has not been finalized yet.

“We are still working with the hospitals to completely finalize the design so it’s the absolute best for them,” she said. “They will be ready in the next day, hour, as soon as we have them ready, and we’re working around the clock to make that happen.”

If you are interested in helping, and you or your business owns a 3D printer, visit makerlab@boisestate.edu to sign up to print.

Boise State is also looking for filament donations, specifically ABS, PLA, and PETG.

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