Face shields with 3D printed headbands made in The Center for Additive Manufacturing and Printing (The CAMP) at Penn State Altoona.

Penn State Altoona trio provides PPE to local health care facilities

A trio of faculty and staff at Penn State Altoona are using the college’s 3D printer lab to supply local hospitals with face shields.
By: Marissa Carney

As the COVID-19 pandemic moves into another month, the need for face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) among health care workers continues.

To keep up with the demand, the Manufacturing and Sterilization for COVID-19 (MASC) Initiative, launched at Penn State in March, remains in action. Hundreds of students, engineers, researchers, and developers across multiple University colleges and campuses are creating products for hospitals in need.

As part of MASC, Rebecca Strzelec, Thomas Hatch, and Barrett Keith are using equipment in The Center for Additive Manufacturing and Printing (The CAMP) at Penn State Altoona to make face shields with 3D printed headbands.

Strzelec, Distinguished Professor of visual arts, chose a face shield design by Erik Cederberg with 3DVerkstan. He is based in Stockholm, Sweden, and has made his design readily available during the pandemic.

Rebecca Strzelec models a face shield with 3D printed headbands

Rebecca Strzelec models a face shield with 3D printed headbands printed in Penn State Altoona's The Center for Additive Manufacturing and Printing (The CAMP).

Credit: Rebecca Strzelec

The design uses a 3D printed band that slips onto the head at the forehead and stays in place with tension. Smaller wearers can also include a rubber band through the back loops for added security. The screen that covers the face is a basic sheet of 8.5 x 11-inch transparency film for overhead projectors. It is punched using a 3-hole punch template and snapped onto the band.

“The design is very clever,” says Strzelec. “I heard about this particular face shield deign from two colleagues in Michigan who are producing them in the same way on a much larger scale to assist in their state.”

The colleagues, Michael Nashef of Nashef Designs, and Phil Renato, professor at Kendall College of Art and Design, were helpful in getting Strzelec, Hatch, and Keith up to speed on successful prints and material sourcing.

Strzelec, Hatch, and Keith take turns working in CAMP, located in the Doing Better Business 3D Printer Lab on campus. Using face shield model files, multiple bands can be printed at once on two Raise3D machines.

“I am proud of our faculty and staff who are producing the face shields,” says Lori J. Bechtel-Wherry, Penn State Altoona chancellor. “Their ingenuity and thoughtfulness in serving our community is inspiring. It warms my heart that this small team is helping to keep our community safe during the challenges of Covid-19.”

Nason Conemaugh Medical system in Roaring Spring, Pennsylvania, received 75 shields while UPMC Altoona hospital requested and will receive 100.

“We have been able to rely on our community in so many ways during this pandemic,” states Nason’s chief nursing officer, Michelle Buttry. “These shields are needed resources that have been difficult to get our hands-on, so we appreciate the support from Penn State Altoona, our own local college.”

The team plans to provide shields for as long as they are needed. Strzelec says they could use more new transparency sheets to continue their work, which can be donated outside of the CAMP.

“The coolest thing about the making of these face shields is how many people came together, 100% remotely, to share their expertise and best practices,” says Strzelec. “This includes help from academics, designers, artists, and local businesses here in our region and also from Michigan and Sweden!”

Hatch, manager of Penn State Altoona’s engineering lab, agrees that this spirit of cooperation and collaboration is especially important during these challenging times.

“If there was ever a time for ‘we are,’ this is it,” states Hatch. “Making masks equipment is just one way that I and Penn State Altoona can help. I believe good comes out of a lot of people when something like this occurs. That is what makes me proud to work for Penn State—everyone fights together.”

“We Are” stories

The “We Are” spirit is perhaps more important than ever before, and Penn Staters everywhere are coming together in new and amazing ways. During these challenging times, our community is continuing to realize Penn State’s commitment to excellence through acts of collaboration, thoughtfulness, and kindness. As President Eric Barron has written on Digging Deeper, this truly is a “We Are” moment.