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Making Protective Face Shields for Hospital Workers

April 9, 2020
Posted by
3D printed and laser cut face shield for medical workers

This pandemic has created a unique set of challenges for everyone. With a stay at home order in place, we've had to put our instrument production on hold, and it has felt really important to all of us to find a way to contribute to the greater cause and to support the medical staff who are on the front lines taking care of people every day. Since we took on this face shield project, we've been hearing more and more stories from people we know who work in the medical world, or who have friends or relatives who do, and who are worried about safety and the shortage of equipment. We're hearing that these face shields are providing not just material relief, but also a much-needed emotional boost, reminding beleaguered medical workers that someone cares about them.

(Note: We've gotten a lot of inquiries from people who want to help, and if you'd like to skip the story of how this came about and jump directly to the DIY instructions, click here.)

So here’s what happened. We have a retail store in the Fremont neighborhood and a wood shop in the Interbay neighborhood where we manufacture harps and hammered dulcimers. Though we all know that facilitating music-making is a very important service, especially when times are tough, we recognized that the best way to keep ourselves and our community safe was to temporarily close down our store and workshop. We are all either furloughed or working from home right now.

One of our long-time instrument-builders, Bob, called to see if Dusty Strings might have any N95 masks that could be passed on to his son, Devin, who is an ER nurse in Seattle. The ER where he works was desperately low on personal protective equipment, and they are really on the front lines!  It turns out we use a different type of respirator in our wood shop, but Ray Mooers (Dusty co-founder and co-owner) felt frustrated at being unable to help in this situation and in the greater battle with the virus. He saw other local businesses that were creatively using their resources and quickly pivoting to help in the cause, such as local spirits distilleries turning their alcohol production into hand sanitizer! Ray went online to see if he could find any way for a hardwood musical instrument manufacturer to help Devin’s ER team.

He came across this intriguing video by a fellow Washingtonian about making protective face shields using a 3D printer for the headband and sheets of clear plastic transparency film for the shield. The design comes from a Swedish company, 3DVerkstan, and has been made available by them to anyone who wants to pitch in to address the shortage of personal protective equipment in local hospitals.

As it happens, Dusty Strings has a 3D printer and a laser cutter (not necessary, but helpful), and we even found an old package of transparency film in a storage cupboard. (This is why we never throw anything away!) Our R&D manager, Aaron Murray, jumped right in to program the laser for cutting out the clear shields, and got both his home 3D printer and the Dusty printer going on the headbands. Ray connected with his brother-in-law Steve, a high school robotics coach and retired Boeing engineer, who had already been doing his own research and was glad to contribute his printing capacity as well. In short order, a few samples were made and handed off to Bob, who delivered them to his son.

3D printer working on headbands for medical face shields
socially-distanced hand-off of face shields

The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. The shields were comfortable, worked well, and were easy to sanitize and re-use, and Devin reported that his coworkers were really touched by the gesture of care, and beyond thrilled at the prospect of getting more shields. Within a couple of days, volunteers were piling onto the project, and we wound up with a whole network of Dusty employees, friends, and family who were printing the headbands on their home printers, sourcing the supplies, and working out socially-distanced delivery routines. It takes over 2 hours to print a pair of headbands on a home 3D printer, but the supply really adds up when you have so many dedicated volunteers working on them around the clock! So far, we’ve donated about 150 shields, which is a drop in the bucket on a global scale, but very meaningful to us, and to the hard-working doctors and nurses who are now using them.

face shield drop-off and pick-up station

We’re getting a lot of questions from people who want to know how they can contribute. You can find all the original materials on the 3DVerkstan website, but there are a number of different versions, and it’s a lot of information to sort through, so we created our own document to simplify things a bit. The .doc version contains all the files you’ll need to get your own operation going. The .pdf version doesn’t have the files embedded, but might still be helpful if you can’t open the other one.

Dusty Strings Face Shield Project Instructions (word doc with files)

Dusty Strings Face Shield Project Instructions (pdf without files)

We encourage you to set up your own network wherever you are, and the sooner the better, as the virus won’t wait for you! Ask your friends and family, and you’ll probably find people with 3D printers, as well as ideas about where these resources are needed. (Though be warned – we’re starting to hear that some suppliers are running short of 3D printing filament and mylar transparencies). You can also check out Masks For Docs, an international group with over 4,000 volunteers, and 100 distribution points in the US (one right here in Seattle!). Seattle Makers is another local organization that could use your help.

A huge thank-you to our volunteers:

  • Steve Amorosi (Dusty family) – 3D printing, technical advice
  • Aaron Chang (Dusty instrument technician) – laser-cutting
  • Paul Dwyer (friend of family) – 3D printing
  • Ray Mooers (Dusty co-owner) – 3D printing, laser-cutting, general coordination
  • Sue Mooers (Dusty co-owner) – 3D printing
  • Aaron Murray (Dusty R&D manager) – 3D printing, laser programming, technical problem-solving
  • Dennis O’Brien (friend of family) – 3D printing
  • Bob Rhorig (Dusty CNC engineer) – supply sourcing, demand outreach, delivery
  • Erin Williams (Dusty instrument technician) and housemates Kip Carleton and Jordan Miller – 3D printing on two printers

We know there will be no way to adequately thank the medical professionals who are in the thick of it every day, but we hope that gestures like this convey our gratitude!

on right, ER nurse wearing Dusty Strings face shield

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