Pellissippi State Community College has produced its first 200 transparent plastic face shields for Covenant Health, building on an earlier project that provided personal protective equipment to health care facilities throughout Tennessee.
“Once we finished our responsibility to the statewide effort spearheaded by Gov. Bill Lee, I suggested we reach out to our friends in health care to see if they also had a need for personal protective equipment,” said Teri Brahams, executive director for economic and workforce development for Pellissippi State. “It was great to offer assistance at the state level, but as a community college, it is great to be able to impact our local community as well.”
Covenant Health responded to Pellissippi State’s offer, requesting 2,000 face shields that health care professionals can wear over their masks to help protect them from infectious diseases such as COVID-19.
Moving from 3D-printing only the headbands for the face shields to producing the entire face shields took collaboration between Covenant Health’s Emily Sinkule and Pellissippi State’s Andy Polnicki, director of the MegaLab on the college’s Strawberry Plains Campus. The two worked together to find a prototype Pellissippi State could produce with the supplies the college already had on hand or could find quickly, as “a lot of these items are difficult to get (due to the pandemic),” Polnicki said.
Pellissippi State got creative, repurposing transparencies for overhead projectors as plastic for the face shields.
“We found about 500 usable transparencies,” Polnicki said. “We ordered more as well.”
Pellissippi State also needed to produce face shields that Covenant Health could easily store and pull out of inventory as needed. That meant coming up with kits that could be stacked on shelves and assembled by health care professionals on site.
Polnicki and PSCC student Matt Nidiffer, a former Knox County Schools educator who is now studying electrical engineering technology, worked in the MegaLab, printing about 50 headbands each day. Staff from Pellissippi State’s Business and Community Services chipped in by helping clean the headbands before packaging them with the other raw materials.
Pellissippi State finished printing and packaging the first 200 face shield kits for Covenant Health last week. Each kit includes one 3D-printed headband, two overhead transparencies, two elastics and a set of instructions for how to assemble the components into a face shield.
Even masked and gloved, the shields can be assembled and donned by health care professionals in less than a minute, Polnicki demonstrated, wearing a mask and gloves himself. Two plastic shields and two elastics were included in each kit so that those opening the kits have a backup should one of components become contaminated.
Pellissippi State now will turn its attention to creating similar packets for the college’s nursing students to use in labs this summer and fall, but then will resume fulfilling Covenant Health’s order of 2,000 face shields, as health care facilities prepare for whatever the coronavirus pandemic may bring this fall.
“This is still a large project, but we are not under the same deadlines (as when the pandemic started),” Polnicki said. “We have our 3D printers running at half capacity, which allows us to make about 250 headbands for face shields each week, but we could ramp up to full capacity if we need to.”
Lesli Bales-Sherrod does marketing and writing for Pellissippi State Community College.