Ed and Brandy Miller of Norridgewock are making face shields at their home for health care workers. Submitted photo

NORRIDGEWOCK —  Ed and Brandy Miller take turns running to their 3D printer on the hutch in their dining room every 33 minutes to pull one visor off the print bed to be made into a face shield.

They plan to donate them to health care workers.

“When it comes to assembly time it’s whoever is available to help,” Ed Miller wrote Friday in an email. “We’re both working some crazy hours at our jobs right now so our schedules are unpredictable.”

They assemble the shields at their kitchen table.

Ed Miller, an IT technical lead for Underwriters Laboratories, considers himself the resident 3D printing nerd in the their house and led the initial effort.

Now that they have their family operation running, everyone in the house is up to speed and chipping in where and when they can, he said.

His wife, Brandy, is a website design manager at the University of Maine at Farmington.

Ed and Brandy Miller of Norridgewock are making face shields using their 3-D printer and plan to donate them so medical staff can use them. Submitted photo

Given the “state of the world” involving COVID-19, Ed Miller said,  it seems every couple hours there’s another story published in reputable local newspapers across the country that medical staff are running out of personal protection equipment.

“We don’t have the ability to produce N95 masks, surgical masks, gowns or disinfectant. However, face shields are one gear that we are able to produce. We’ve got family and friends working in health care who have confirmed many of the reports out there of dwindling supplies,” he said.

There are a number of 3D printing enthusiast communities online that have begun making the masks.

“One is 3D Agents of Shield which is where I first saw the design that we are printing now,” he said.

The company’s web address is 3dagentsofshield.com.

The Millers have owned a Prusa i3 MK2S printer for a few years and turned out many prints of differing complexity and utility.

This is one of the face shields that Ed and Brandy Miller are making at their Norridgewock home to donate for health care workers to wear. Submitted photo

The shields themselves are incredibly simple, Miller said.

It consists of a visor, which is the 3D printed part, and the shield, which is a piece of overhead projector transparency film.

The visor has six small tabs on the outer wall — two on either side of the face and two in the center of the forehead, he said. A standard three-hole paper punch with an offset is used to punch the six holes in the transparency film. The holes are simply aligned with the visor tabs and popped into place, he said.

So far, they have purchased all of the materials themselves. Cost varies considerably, Miller said.

The new shield design will cost between $1.25 and $1.50 per completed face shield.

“We’re still working on getting proper distribution set up to area hospitals,” Miller said  “Understandably, the folks in charge of sourcing equipment and donations are extremely busy. We’ve only been producing shields for a few days so we’re still early on in this process. We’ve heard back from one local area hospital and they are quite interested to receive the masks.”

Their first batch was to be delivered Friday afternoon to a hospital for evaluation for use by hospital staff.

“If they meet their required specifications they’ll go into circulation,” he said. “If they do not, the first batch will be used only for training purposes and we’ll make any necessary revisions to the design for future donations.”

Sadly, he said, they don’t have the production capacity to saturate any one health care organization over another. Each visor takes roughly 35 minutes to produce using the current design. Depending on whether or not revisions are necessary that will further impact the rate at which they can produce shields, he said.

“Once we have a hospital-approved design I would love to get in touch with other 3D printing enthusiasts in the area to coordinate and increase production capacity,” Miller said.

The current version of shields are incredibly easy to make, he said. The largest bottleneck to volume now is the 3D printing process. The visor takes about 33 minutes to complete. Preparing the shield and attaching the visor takes a couple of minutes at most.

At the moment they will print visors for a day or two and set them aside.

“Once we have 30-40 visors we prepare for assembly,” he said.  “We wipe down all tools, surfaces, and materials with disinfectant wipes. Then, whoever is assisting with assembly (either my wife, daughter, or both) washes their hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds as we’ve been instructed.”

Lastly, they all don a face shield of their own to help keep their breath off of the materials as they assemble and to keep their hands off of their face during the same.

They are doing their best to prevent contamination and have been very clear about the environment in which they were produced and the precautions that were taken during assembly, he said.

Miller has reached out to some personal contacts he has at local schools to see about using their 3D printers and is awaiting replies.

The Millers have a family member who is a health care worker who is in and out of hospitals for work who delivers them.

“We provide them the shields and they deliver, he said. “We package the shields and the package is placed in a safe area outside of our main living space.”

This allows the family member to pick them up without coming into contact with the mask assemblers.

“We are still incredibly early on in this process but it’s encouraging that after a few days of trying we were able to make contact with a local hospital to start the process of getting these on health care workers heads,” Miller said. “We’re happy to be in a position that we can do something other than staying home.  Once we have sign-off from a local hospital I would be very interested in connecting with others that have access to a 3D printer and are looking to help.”


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