ATHENS – The University of Georgia has delivered a first batch of medical face shields produced on campus to local medical professionals facing a shortage of protective equipment because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The university plans to deliver 200 face shields each to Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center and St. Mary’s Hospital by the end of the day Friday. The shields, which help protect health care providers from droplets, aerosols and other contaminants while treating patients, are being produced through a collaboration between the UGA College of Engineering, UGA Libraries, and the Instrument Design and Fabrication Shop, a unit of UGA’s Office of Research.

“We’re pleased to be able to help the community in this time of crisis,” said Donald Leo, dean of the College of Engineering. “Our staff and students have really taken the urgency of the situation to heart, and they’ve stepped forward to support our community and its medical professionals.”

The face shields produced by the College of Engineering and the Instrument Design and Fabrication Shop include four simple parts the hospitals can assemble quickly: a clear plastic shield, a plastic head gear, an adjustable strap made from non-latex rubber, and a neoprene strip as a forehead cushion. UGA can produce approximately 130 face shields a day until it runs out of materials.

University Health Center has already received 10 face shields and expects to receive 15 more, said UHC Executive Director Dr. Garth Russo.

“We greatly appreciate the innovation,” he said.

A team of two staff members and two student workers fabricated the shields in the College of Engineering’s machine shop using laser cutters. Meanwhile, a small group of workers in the Instrument Design and Fabrication Shop manufactured the head gear using water jet cutters. All the work has been conducted under social distancing protocols and other safety measures recommended by public health officials.

The UGA team examined several different designs for medical face shields before moving forward with two prototypes. They presented the prototypes to Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center for review last week before deciding which design to use and how to divide the work flow.

The Science Library Makerspace, a part of UGA Libraries, is contributing to UGA’s production of protective equipment for local hospitals using a different process: 3D printing. Andrew Johnson, an emerging technologies librarian, reached out to faculty and staff with 3D printers to let them know about the initiative. He was able to borrow printers from across campus – including the College of Family and Consumer Sciences and the Entrepreneurship Program in the Terry College of Business – to create a fabrication hub. With the significant increase in 3D-printing capability, Johnson estimates the Makerspace will be able to produce 70 face shields a week using a design approved by the National Institutes of Health.

“The determination of our students and staff to use their expertise and resources to help our medical colleagues stay safe while treating coronavirus patients is truly inspiring,” said David Lee, vice president for research. “This models what a land grant university should be all about.”

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