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Coronavirus PPE: Drexel University Engineers Creating Hundreds Of 3D-Printed Face Shields For Hospitals

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Hundreds of new medical face shields are being made for hospitals in the Philadelphia region by engineers at Drexel University. Hospitals have been desperate to find protective equipment for medical teams treating patients with COVID-19.

Engineering professors and students at Drexel found a way to help fill the void.

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For the engineers at Drexel, figuring out how to make these coveted face shields was a no-brainer.

"It's a pretty simple design, altogether. Just trying to make them as fast as possible and get them out to all the health care workers who need them," said Drexel professor Michele Marcolongo.

Marcolongo got the request from a Philadelphia doctor a week ago and Drexel's engineering ingenuity quickly sprang into action.

"We have lots of people working many hours a day," she said. "Nobody has been sleeping much."

Drexel face shield
(credit: CBS3)

The engineers created a prototype for the headband to make them with 3D printers.

"The 3D printer has a jet of polymer and it lays down row-by-row a layer of polymer, until it builds up into this thick structure," Marcolongo said.

The head piece is outfitted with a plastic shield and a flexible band. There's even a piece of padding for the forehead that was donated.

"It's been a wonderful show of community and really in the City of Brotherly Love," Marcolongo said. "It's been amazing."

The shields are being sent to area hospitals running low on protective supplies, where they can be life-saving for medical teams treating patients with COVID-19.

"It feels like we're making a contribution in that way," Marcolongo said. "I think engineers, in general, that's how we work, we try to give people what they need to do their jobs well."


Using about 20 3D printers, Drexel is hoping to make about 400 shields a week.

"It's rewarding to be an engineer, especially at this time to be able to move quickly. Within a week to have a whole product from request to manufacturing, it's unprecedented," Marcolongo said.

The Drexel team is looking for partners and hopes to team up with manufacturers to help create more face shields, which have been vetted by doctors and area especially critical when patients have to be intubated, and that is happening with a growing number of COVID-19 patients.

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