A 3D-printed visor and plastic divider tab are used to create a face shield for healthcare workers. Bowdoin College employees are making the masks and donating them to local hospitals. Contributed photo

BRUNSWICK — The 3D printer at David Israel’s home is running 24 hours a day, seven days per week, and is likely driving his family crazy with all the noise, he said. 

Israel works in Bowdoin College’s Academic Technology and Consulting Group and is “cranking out” eight to 10 3D-printed visors every day. The visors are paired with clear plastic dividers used in three-ring binders to make National Institute of Health-approved face shields for health care workers.

Within the next few days, Israel hopes to get a second printer up and running so he can double his production. 

The face shields are made as part of a collaboration among Bowdoin, Bates and Colby colleges to manufacture personal protective equipment, or PPE, to donate to area hospitals. 

“We have a lot of friends all over the world who are suffering from this,” Israel said, calling  the move “a response to our crazy times.” 

So far, Bowdoin officials have donated a dozen of the face shields to LincolnHealth in Damariscotta. 

After the first delivery, the school was inundated with requests for PPE from all over, as such equipment is in short supply across the country.

A visor is 3D printed. Contributed photo

They want everyone to get what they need, Israel said, but “we’re a liberal arts college, not a medical supply distribution center,” so from now on the school is donating the masks to MaineHealth, the state’s largest hospital conglomerate, which will then decide how to divvy up and dole out the materials. 

“We’re not just going down the street to Mid Coast (Hospital) because we have friends and colleagues there,” he said. 

The printer uses a process called fused deposition modeling. According to All3DP, a digital 3D printing magazine, it’s a method of additive manufacturing in which layers of materials are fused together in a pattern to create an object. 

“The material is usually melted just past its glass transition temperature and then extruded in a pattern next to or on top of previous extrusions, creating an object layer by layer,” according to the magazine. 

Israel likened the process to frosting a cake. 

Others at the school, such as librarian Sue O’Dell and library assistant Jeffrey Cosgrove, also have joined the effort, printing either from campus or their homes, according to the college. 

Erin Johnson, visiting assistant professor of art and digital and computation studies is cutting the shields on campus and making the deliveries. Together they are able to produce around 20 shields per day. 

Israel will keep making masks until people do not need them anymore.

“It’s heartbreaking that (healthcare workers) are not getting the materials they need in these hot zones,” he said. “We know what we’re doing is just a drop in the bucket. It seems to me from the response that we’ve gotten is that every little bit helps and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

John Porter, spokesperson for MaineHealth, did not have any comment on the Bowdoin donation specifically, but said the organization is “super grateful” for the people helping get supplies to medical workers.

“Our care team member are really lifted up by it because it shows the community really cares,” he said.

The face shields are not the only step Bowdoin is taking to help protect healthcare workers on the front line of the virus. 

According to the college, the emergency management team has donated over 4,000 N95 masks — a facemask believed to be effective in preventing the spread of coronavirus— as well as 480 pairs of safety glasses, 110 barrier gowns, 480 oral swabs and five boxes of exam table paper to Mid Coast Hospital. 

Additionally, college President Clayton Rose said in a letter to the community Friday that the college has set aside 12 apartment units to support first responders such as fire and emergency services personnel who become exposed to the virus or who have high risk family members at home. An additional 75 housing units are available for hospital employees working multi-day shifts. 

“These facilities provide a place for those on the front lines here in Brunswick to clean up and rest before heading back out in service to the community,” Rose said. 

The face shields, he added, are “squarely in the category of creatively supporting the common good and refusing to take no for an answer” and inspires pride in how they mobilized “to help protect those who are protecting the rest of us.”

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