Cal State Bakersfield is making face shields for healthcare workers grappling with a shortage of protective gear.
On Monday, CSUB delivered its first production of 250 face shields to the Kern County Health Services Department. The shields were made in the university’s Fab Lab, where students and the public can turn their inventions and ideas into reality with the help of CSUB staff and equipment.
Bobby Hartsock, a CSUB alumnus who works at the Fab Lab, said the university is looking to make thousands of face shields to protect Kern County healthcare workers.
“This, honestly, could very well be life and death for those who will be using these supplies,” he said. “To me, this shows how much CSUB cares for our community, by providing the supplies, personnel and funds to work on this project. I’m so proud of what we’re doing.”
When the School of Natural Science, Math and Engineering challenged Hartsock to make personal protective equipment in the Fab Lab, he said his first thought was to investigate the fabrication of medical face masks. However, he quickly realized the materials were too delicate for CSUB’s 3D printers.
The school shifted gears and discovered a face shield how-to guide a designer had posted online and invited the public to replicate to help protect healthcare workers.
Fabrication of the face shields consists of two processes: a laser that is required to cut the plastic for the shield and a 3D printer that is used for the creation of the headbands.
“Fortunately, the guy who designed the 3D component had already done a lot of testing to make it compatible with as many 3D printers as possible,” Hartsock said. “I thought we’d have a bunch of failures, but that hasn’t happened.”
The challenge in making the face shields is not actually in the making – it’s in finding the materials and the tedious wait for the 3D printers to do their magic, Hartsock said. In 24 hours, each of the 3D printers he is using is capable of making 24 face shields a day.
Hartsock knew that to ramp up production, he’d need help, so he put out a call to businesses in town that use 3D printers and other equipment in order to increase the output of headbands.
One such business is Androids3D, owned and operated by George Simonoff, who was already working on adapting common items like scuba masks for personal protective equipment when he got the call from Hartsock.
“CSUB bought a bunch of material and got it to us and we’re just chewing that up on our printers,” Simonoff said. “It’s such trying times but at the same time, it’s as great way for us to remember what being united means. And I always try to promote things that CSUB is doing, especially the Fab Lab, and, being an engineer myself, it’s good to see we’re investing in kids coming up in technology.”
However, the production is contingent the availability of the raw material needed to make the face shields. Hartsock said the materials are trickling in, including an initial shipment of 600 feet of the plastic used to make the shields. That much material should make about 2,400, he said.
“It’s engineering in action. Filling a need,” said Andrea Medina, director of grants and outreach for NSME. “As an engineer and engineering major, that’s what they’re being taught to do: Here are your materials. Make it work. I also have to sing Bobby’s praises. These are the kind of people we’re producing for the community. Problem solvers.”
CSUB’s University Advancement division, which is responsible for securing funding for students and crucial initiatives, is funding the manufacture of the face shields through an account, according to the university.
For Medina, the Fab Lab’s willingness to jump into action when the need for protective gear became obvious is just one example of many that CSUB stands ready to assist the region.
“We love our community, and so it feels amazing to be able to provide a service in this way,” Medina said. “As a university, we’re still impacting people’s lives, even though we’re locked indoors.”