The students may be out of the classrooms, but the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith (UAFS) is still being used — right now, in fighting COVID-19.
The College of Applied Science and Technology at UAFS is using its 3D printers to produce headband pieces for plastic face shields used by medical personnel during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The parts have been used to assemble face shields that have been donated to Baptist Health and elsewhere to combat the national shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the outbreak.
"Protecting medical personnel is one of our primary concerns, and to be able to help them is a really important thing for us," said graphic and animation technology faculty Derek Goodson.
Goodson said he started thinking about making face shields after watching the news. He began testing prototypes for the masks about two weeks ago after Cheryl Anderson, whose husband works as an emergency room physician in both Baptist and Mercy hospitals, shared the need for protective equipment.
After producing the headband pieces, Goodson reached out to the community to compile transparent plastic sheets and elastic banding.
"I made her a prototype of it and took it to her to show her, and then we kind of got the approval to go ahead to start printing in as large of quantities as I could," he said.
"We have folks all over printing these, contributing masks, because clearly there’s a need," said Anderson.
Fourteen 3D printing machines run one at a time in the UAFS lab. As of Saturday evening, 120 of the 3D pieces had been passed along to the next stage of assembly, according to a UAFS news release.
Goodson said he plans to continue producing face shields for as long as they’re needed.
"We’re glad to be able to help in any way we can through this," Goodson said. "To be able to do something for the people who are really on the front lines of fighting this and putting themselves in harm’s way to take care of people. Anything we can do for that is really important to us."
"It’s a community effort," Anderson said. "It’s so nice that we live in a community where everyone wants to help."