Feature   Defense News

Volunteers Use 3D Printing to Aid COVID-19 Relief Efforts

May 15, 2020 | BY Rebecca Nappi

The low hum buzzing in the background of a conference call with soldiers from the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives Command isn't coming from your typical household appliance. It's the sound of personal protective equipment being made, for health care workers and emergency responders in need.

Face shields stacked on a table.
Face Shields
Donated 3D-printed face shields created by volunteer army personnel are stacked at a recipient health care facility. Soldiers with the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive Command have joined other volunteers in the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., area to volunteer their free time and personal 3D printing capabilities to print and create face masks for donation to hospitals and health care workers across the nation combating COVID-19.
Photo By: Rebecca Nappi, Army
VIRIN: 200420-A-HF386-1000M

The soldiers joined other volunteers in the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, area to volunteer their free time and personal 3D printing capabilities to print and create face shields for donation to hospitals and health care workers combating COVID-19 across the nation.

Army Maj. John James Arteche, a 20th CBRNE Command operations officer, is one of the 10 soldiers from the command — along with other Aberdeen Proving Ground personnel, retired Defense Department employees and local law enforcement officers — volunteering their free time and personal 3D printers to create personal protective equipment for providers working the front lines of COVID-19 care.

"It just seemed like such a simple piece of plastic to help protect medical personnel," Arteche said. "But this simple piece of plastic can potentially save a life or mitigate risk."

The group came together through an explosive ordnance disposal Facebook group, where Army Staff Sgt. James Ahn, an Army Logistics University EOD small group leader, saw a critical need and an interested and capable group of people who could help him.

"Because our group is filled with first responders and people who support first responders at a national level, it was an easy transition of our current skill sets to be able to work such a strong grassroots effort," Ahn said.

While Arteche is working in a subset of the larger group, Ahn has gathered volunteers from various disciplines across the country to work in an unofficial capacity to create this personal protective equipment.

A graphic advertising 3D-printed face shields.
Instructions
Soldiers with the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive Command joined other volunteers in the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., area to volunteer their free time and personal 3D printing capabilities to print and create face masks for donation to hospitals and health care workers across the nation combating COVID-19.
Photo By: Rebecca Nappi, Army
VIRIN: 200510-A-HF386-1003

The concept for the group is simple: 3D print a National Institutes of Health accepted design for a visor headband and add a transparency sheet to create an improvised face shield. Within an hour, two unassuming pieces of plastic are combined to create a potentially lifesaving piece of personal protective equipment.

Once volunteers in the Aberdeen Proving Ground area have completed the face shields, they are delivered to the local coordinator, Gary Ledder. An electronic technician with the Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, Ledder coordinates the operational movements such as shipping, placement and other logistics.

"We do this one, because we can, and two, because we should,"  Ledder said. "A lot of these volunteers were trying to help, and it helps a lot of people mentally to help others. This gives me a purpose right now."

The main goal for the 50 volunteers from around the country is to provide PPE to those who need it at zero cost.

Health care workers posing for a photo.
Group Photo
Health care workers pose with their donated 3D-printed face shields created by volunteer army personnel. Soldiers with the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive Command joined other volunteers in the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., area to volunteer their free time and personal 3D printing capabilities to print and create face masks for donation to hospitals and health care workers across the nation combating COVID-19.
Photo By: Rebecca Nappi, Army
VIRIN: 200420-A-HF386-1001M
Nurse posing for a photo.
Medical Services
An on-the-job Penn Medicine nurse shows her donated 3D-printed face shield created by volunteer army personnel. Soldiers with the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive Command have joined other volunteers in the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., area to volunteer their free time and personal 3D printing capabilities to print and create face masks for donation to hospitals and health care workers across the Nation combating COVID-19.
Photo By: Rebecca Nappi, Army
VIRIN: 200510-A-HF386-1010M

In total, the volunteers expect to create more than 13,500 face shields that will be sent to 28 states and one U.S. territory. Over 160 facilities nationwide have benefited from these volunteer efforts, including urgent care centers, hospitals, assisted living facilities and COVID-19 screening stations.

"It just feels like the right thing to do," Arteche said. "I have the time and capability so why wouldn't I?"

The volunteers will continue to send out face shields, and they're looking for any other centers and locations that need them.

"It's just first responders helping first responders," Ledder said. "We've fought on the battlefield, but now our new front lines are the medics."

(Rebecca Nappi is assigned to the 20th CBRNE Command.)