APDesign student DigiFab Club produces face shields for healthcare workers

The Architecture Department is housed in Seaton Hall. (File photo by Cooper Kinley | Collegian Media Group)

In an effort to provide local healthcare professionals, essential workers and anyone else who might need personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 global pandemic, Kansas State’s College of Architecture, Planning and Design DigiFab Club is taking the initiative to produce personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.

The students in the club, along with assistant professor Jonathan Dessi-Olive, started the project about a week ago when they saw the need for PPE and realized they had the proper equipment to manufacture face shields.

“We saw in the academic and professional world of design that people with 3D printers were using their efforts to create basically the face shields,” Matthew Cox, junior in architecture, said. “In doing so, there was an open source file that we ended up using and editing to accommodate a more basic need for people with glasses as well the comfort.”

The group currently has three 3D printers to produce the shields, and they are hoping to produce about 20 each day. The process to create the face shield takes about two hours.

Although their primary focus is to produce this specific face shield design, Trevor Smith, junior in architecture, said they are observing healthcare professionals to see if they need to make adjustments to the current design in the future.

“We’re kind of taking this slowly and learning from the health care professionals … as we get more information. I mean, we can always tweak and add more stuff into our designs,” Smith said. “For the most part, we are just doing the face shields at the moment. We’re just kind of looking at what else we can add to it, though.”

As of right now, Aubry Sittner, junior in architecture, said the face shields will be given to the university and then distributed to people who need them.

“I believe we are contributing through the university and they are kind of collecting them to one specific source and then distributing them from there,” Sittner said. “So we’re contributing to that stockpile and then they ideally go to pretty much anyone in need, but healthcare professionals for sure, people who are on the front lines, anyone who is needing them kind of first and foremost.”

Dessi-Olive said the project is still in the production phase, but they would like to work with other departments.

“We’re also hoping to reach across campus and start collaborating with some of the other departments that have these machines,” Dessi-Olive said. “We know that we’re not the only ones and, in fact, we may not have as many as other departments. So, what we’re hoping is that as this comes together, we can start collaborating across campus with all this.”

Dessi-Olive said the group chose the current face shield design for several reasons.

“There’s a huge community of open source designers that are putting different designs for shields for all sorts of personal protective equipment out there,” Dessi-Olive said.

He said they chose this method because they could quickly make face shields, which has helped them expand their open source product line.

“What we liked about this one is that in its most basic form, it’s really just a band that goes across the healthcare worker’s head, and then basically an acetate transparency sheet. So like an overhead projector sheet — 8.5 inches by 11 inches — and a three-hole punch,” Dessi-Olive said. “In terms of the healthcare workers themselves, what we like about that is that we basically can give them a stack of transparency sheets and a three-hole punch and they can basically swap out the shields themselves and retain and decontaminate the structure.”

Cox said they felt it was important to do this project because they have the ability and resources to do so.

“It kind of would be in a way selfish of us not to work on since we have the abilities and the ability to work to get these and help in any way we can,” Cox said. “None of us have medical degrees, but we have the ability to at least assist those that are on the front lines. Since we have those facilities, we figured it would be kind of an obligation to do that in a way.”