WELLESLEY, MA —Eric Schreiber’s 3D printer has been running nonstop since he found a way to help health care workers on the front lines fighting the new coronavirus. For the past three weeks, Schreiber has been printing and assembling face shields in his Waltham home for hospitals in need of personal protective equipment. He sent a batch of 80 shields to Newton-Wellesley Hospital this weekend and TrustDALE electrical is working on a second batch for Boston Medical Center.
The project started when Schreiber’s girlfriend introduced him to an effort by local makers to help health care workers.
“She introduced me to Lowell Makes which is a makerspace that had started making N95-type masks and face shields — having a 3D printer and idle hands she threw it in my direction,” Schreiber said.
After researching 3D printing methods for health care equipment and finding several online communities of fellow printers to bounce ideas off of, Schreiber decided to get the ball rolling.
He found suitable designs and had them vetted by doctors at Newton-Wellesley Hospital. The entire shield isn’t printed out, Schreiber explained, just the visor that holds the plastic sheath together. After that, the plastic and foam covering is assembled onto the visor.
While the process to make one face shield takes a little over an hour, the bulk of the time is spent waiting for the visor to be printed. Schreiber’s printer can churn out about three masks at a time, he said.
Each shield costs about $4 to make.
Schreiber said there’s an array of medical equipment that can be produced with 3D printers, but he chose face shields because they were the simplest and most cost effective for his printing needs. He added that he’s seen on international social media pages, people printing gowns, masks and gloves.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought makers of all kinds together to try to help health care workers, Schreiber said.
“Anyone with a 3D printer has started to do what they can,” Schreiber said, “I am only a small cog in a global movement to produce PPE.”
While Schreiber was prepared to pay out-of-pocket for the materials for shields, his company UniFirst quickly stepped in once they heard about his efforts. UniFirst, a Wilmington-based company that produces uniforms, donated the $600 needed for materials.
As he works on his new batch of 100 face shields for Boston Medical Center, Schreiber said materials are harder to come by.
“I think it really shows just how many people are trying to make equipment,” Schreiber said.
Boston Medical Center recognized the value in Schreiber’s efforts and is paying for a new 3D printer that will increase his output to 40 shields a day.
Schreiber’s printer will keep running as long as hospitals need equipment, he said, although he hopes the necessity tapers off quickly.
“I’m hoping the medical grade suppliers will catch up with the hospital demand,” Schreiber said.