Atlanta engineers use technology to print masks and face shields

Engineers at Georgia Tech and in neighborhoods across Atlanta are working around the clock to design protective gear for our healthcare workers using lasers and 3D printers. But, even if you don't have a 3D printer, there are ways you can help from home.

"All I had to do was download the files and start printing," said Zach Griggs, who lives in Medlock Park and is 3D printing masks at home. 

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Griggs said he's just hoping to do something to help those on the front lines treating those impacted by this pandemic. "Everybody feels a little bit helpless, and they just want to do anything they can to feel like they're fighting this thing, and here I am with the resources, it could not be easier for me to do this," said Griggs.

He's printing plastic masks, then installing small filters made of surgical masks. "You can cut about 6 of these shapes out of one surgical mask, and then pop them in right here," he said.

The design Griggs downloaded, from engineers in Montana, multiply the use of one surgical mask to make 6 of his plastic masks, helping spread precious supplies further. You can find the designs for the masks so you can print them from home, HERE.

"It's good for healthcare workers to know there are people out there with this capability," said Griggs.

And at Georgia Tech, engineers are using their capabilities to build face shields, "which are extremely important for protecting frontline workers, specifically protecting more critical "PPE" like the N95 face masks, which are in short supply right now," said Christopher Saldana, a professor of mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech.

In the Georgia Tech lab, lasers cut out the plastic headpiece, but you can 3D print those pieces, or even build protective gear at home with office supplies you probably already have.

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"The way we've designed and modified this product, you can use office transparencies, which should be in higher supply now that we're not using overhead projectors as much these days, and you can use a three-hole punch to put in the mounting holes," said Saldana. 

If you'd like to try and build some of the face shields at home, the instructions can be found HERE.  

"We've tried to do it so that anyone, from an individual or a large company, can contribute to this fight," said Samuel Graham, chair of the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech.

For people who contribute from home, it's not just about the creation, it's about the community.

"It's unfortunate that a virus going across the world is something that's bringing us together, but this actually feels like something that we can do to bring us together and help," said Griggs.

The engineers warn, if you are making some of these products at home, make sure you choose materials that can be bleached or properly sanitized.

The Georgia Tech team is dropping off some of the face shields to Emory healthcare workers this week. They also are working with Georgia Pacific, Siemens and other companies to scale these creations to mass production.

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Best prevention measures:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least twenty seconds.
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces


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