Muleriders shielding the community

In response to the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), the SAU Engineering and Physics Department adapted its 3D-printing resources to produce face shields for Magnolia Regional Medical Center (MRMC) and many other local medical professionals that are on the front lines of the worldwide pandemic. The Engineering Department has six 3D printers working around the clock to accommodate the demand. Even though the cost of each shield is minimal, time is of the essence as each frame can take up to six hours to print.

According to Dr. Abdel Bachri, dean of the College of Science and Engineering, there’s mounting evidence that coronavirus’s primary mode of transmission is from respiratory droplets, which makes guarding the face a priority for health workers on the front lines. “Face shields are not fool-proof against the transmission, but they offer an added protection when used in combination with other PPE,” said Dr. Bachri.

Dr. Mahbub Ahmed, associate professor of Engineering, and Mr. Jeff Sumner, the engineering shop machinist, led the effort to produce a large batch of face shields and developed the capability to fabricate more as needed. “This is the least we can do to support, in a modest way, our healthcare workers against the coronavirus struggle,” said Dr. Ahmed.

Layer by layer, the 3D printer builds the frame for the shield taking nearly 6 hours from start to finish of each frame. The finished product has three notches with the typical spacing from a three-hole punch. Standard page protectors or transparencies are attached to the frame serving as the shield and also allowing for easy disposal and replacement if needed. They can also be disinfected and used repeatedly, thus eliminating the need to continue to replenish the stock.

Stephanie Schmittou ‘00, MRMC Chief Nursing Officer, welcomed the PPE. “MRMC is very proud to have these face shields for our protection. This creation was fortunate, and we are so grateful for Southern Arkansas University and their commitment to our community hospital,” said Schmittou.

The department donated over 300 face shields to the community. Places of distribution include MRMC, local nursing homes, dentist offices, and our own SAU Health Services. SAU strives to make a difference not only on campus, but throughout the community as well. SAU is grateful to have played a small part in helping with the unexpected change of life that came along with the COVID-19 pandemic.

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