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Bucks IU Mobile Fab Lab makes PPE face shields

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The Bucks County Intermediate Unit’s (Bucks IU) Mobile Fab Lab may be parked on the sidelines while schools are closed, but the equipment it normally takes around the county for students to use is not sitting idle.

Dr. Lindsey Sides, Bucks IU supervisor of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) education, heard from her connections in the science and technology world that some 3-D printers could be used to help fabricate personal protection equipment (PPE) for medical personnel and first responders on the front line of fight against the COVID-19 coronavirus. With that bit of information, Sides was on a mission to see how the Bucks IU’s Fab Lab equipment could help.

After many searches and trying to connect with several groups and people regarding this, Sides got an email back from Amy Kuceyeski, an associate professor of mathematics and radiology at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. Kuceyeski had mobilized a team of people at Cornell to work on how they could use their 3-D printers (like the Bucks IU units pictured to the right) to make face shields. The Cornell team was not only able to perfect a simple and effective process, but they were very willing to share their design plans, specifications, and instructions.

Additionally, Sides was also able to connect with Fab Lab NOLA; a sister fabrication laboratory from New Orleans, La. The lab was also investigating making PPE with its equipment and shared some of their specifications and knowledge from their learning process.

Armed with all this information, Sides joined forces with Megan Boletta, the Bucks IU’s Fab Lab program coordinator, and they got started. Fabrication materials were ordered and delivered, prototypes were made, and processes were documented. Within just a few days, they had a process finalized and documented, and a prototype ready to be approved.

On April 3, Boletta and Sides took the prototype to the Bucks County Emergency Operations Center, located in Ivyland for review and approval. It passed with flying colors and production was able to begin immediately.

“We are so excited and gratified to be able to use this equipment to help protect and support those on the front lines against this COVID-19 epidemic,” stated Sides. “In the spirit of ‘sharing it forward’ we would also be happy to give our design instructions to anyone else who may have this equipment and want to help produce these as well.”

Using the FAB LAB’s seven 3-D printers (models are by Sindoh and Dremel), along with their Epilog laser cutter, Sides and Boletta got to work. They can currently produce over 200 face shields a week and will provide these to the Bucks County Emergency Operations Center for them to distribute based on need throughout Bucks County.

“Being able to produce these masks, and provide them free of charge, is an honor,” declared Dr. Mark Hoffman, Bucks IU executive director. “We are extremely proud that our STEAM education team has taken this opportunity to find a way to support the fight against COVID-19 by helping to keep medical personnel and first responders safe.”

Design instructions are available that either use only a 3-D printer, or that use both a 3-D printer and a laser cutter.

If anyone is interested in making only the head piece, the Bucks IU will take those and add the face shields to finish them. Anyone interested in the details can contact Sides at STEAM@BucksIU.org or call her at 215-348-2940 x1460.


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