At the beginning of last week Lennon Rodgers, director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Engineering Design Innovation Laboratory, received an urgent email from the university hospital. Could your lab make 1,000 face shields to protect staff testing and treating Covid-19 patients? Usual providers at the hospital were exhausted due to increased demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
After putting his kids to bed, Rodgers went to the Home Depot and a local craft store and grabbed supplies, including clear plastic and a pair of foam mannequin heads. He then made a hasty prototype in the UW maker space adapting a construction visor and presented it to his wife, an anesthesiologist. “I was really proud of it, but she put it on and said, ‘This is too heavy,'” Rodgers recalls.
Undeterred, Rodgers devised several lighter prototypes with two friends: Jesse Darley, mechanical engineer at design firm Delve, and Brian Ellison, business development manager for manufacturer Midwest Prototyping. Rodgers’ wife provided further comment and spoke to the group through infection control videos showing how to put on and take off the face shields.
Last Thursday, the hospital approved the prototype. Rodgers posted the design online for others to use, and the ad hoc collective began increasing production. Since then, they have sent over 1,000 face shields to UW Hospital. Ford has chosen the open source design and expects to produce more than 75,000 this week at the Troy Design and Manufacturing subsidiary in Plymouth, Michigan. The company plans to send the initial race to Detroit-area hospitals.
The shortage of face masks, ventilators, and other medical equipment needed to care for Covid-19 patients and reduce transmission of the new coronavirus has inspired engineers, manufacturers, and fans around the world. The Madison face shield, called the Badger Shield, is one of the first to flourish in a medically approved large-scale production.
“We are filling a niche while high-volume supply chains have broken,” says Darley, who took the lead in design and authored the open source technical drawings collected by Ford. If other manufacturers adopt the design, he adds, “I think we can increase production very quickly.”
Medical personnel wear face shields over face masks while treating patients to protect themselves against respiratory drops that can transmit the coronavirus, such as coughs and sneezes. Bob Scheuer, director of material management at UW Health, says protective gear of all kinds has become difficult to find, but face shields are especially critical because staff now routinely use them.
Scheuer notes that the staff disinfects the masks between patients and reuses them, but they must be replaced periodically due to wear. The Madison hospital does not yet have an avalanche of Covid-19 patients, but preventing the spread of the coronavirus to staff is crucial. “It is a downward spiral if we cannot keep them safe,” he says. “So far, these new shields are working well for us.”
& # 39; Infection control approved & # 39;
Darley says that engineers generally band together on tools and materials to brainstorm a new product, but social distancing prevented it on this project. He, Rodgers, and Ellison, who knew each other from design events in Madison, collaborated primarily by phone, FaceTime, text messages, and Google’s photo sharing service. “It would have been much easier if we could have met in person,” adds Darley. They placed an order for overnight delivery of items from hardware vendor McMaster-Carr, which donated some supplies.
The design work really came together, Darley says, after contacting a hospital worker she knew from the local dog park and she brought him a face shield that he could measure and take apart. To make more shields, you first had to destroy one. “The biggest impression was how light it was. It’s feathers. “