ATLANTA - With many health care workers confronting a shortage in personal protective equipment while treating COVID-19 patients, some area businesses are stepping up. One of them is Ratio Product Lab in the Virginia-Highland area of Atlanta.
Jim Ferguson of Ratio Product Lab in Atlanta making face shields to donate to health care workers
"I thought, if I could produce something to help even my neighbors, I'd try to make one or two or three," said Jim Ferguson, an industrial designer and principal at Ratio Product Labs.
Ferguson is normally someone you go see when you want help bringing your million-dollar invention idea to life. These days, he's focused largely on making face shields. They are the plastic guards worn by health care workers over their face masks as an added layer of protection and, in some cases, to extend the life of the face masks.
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Ferguson tinkered with a design, with the help of a neighbor who works in health care. He posted on the community message board app NextDoor to see if there was interest. The response was much larger than he expected.
"I didn't necessarily mean to make 30 a day, but I've had requests for 25 to 30 a day," said Ferguson.
Using three of his 3-D printers, Ferguson is able to make 30 face shields per day. He set a goal of making 500 to be donated to health care workers, and has already produced over 300. One of his clients offered to set up a GoFundMe, which raised over $5,000 in the first four days it was active.
"Anything I get [financially] I turn right back into face shields," said Ferguson.
In addition to the 3-D-printed frame of the face shield, he uses several every day objects to complete the design. A transparency sheet, like you might use with an overhead projector, is the shield itself. A retired Emory University professor helped arrange a donation of transparency sheets they had on hand. Ferguson then uses exercise resistance bands as the strap to hold the shield on your head. A "command strip," those sticky strips you might use to hang up something in your house, hold everything together.
Donations have gone to a variety of people, including nurses at Piedmont hospital. Ferguson has also had requests from people who might have to provide their own protective equipment in their health care work, like emergency dentists or nurses traveling to New York City to aid their relief work.
"I'm finding that the five they need is more like the 30 or 40 they could use," said Ferguson. "To be able to offer them something, and something I made, designed within a week and turned around and made, it's pretty extraordinary. It feels great."
Ferguson says, if you want to help, the best way is through donating to his GoFundMe page, which you can find here: Face Shields Fundraiser
Ferguson also said that, if you are a healthcare worker looking for donated face shields, please reach out via his email.
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