In response to personal protective equipment (P.P.E.) shortages in hospitals and nursing homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hailey Wadell ’21 and her father, Brian Wadell, are 3D printing face shields to donate to nearby health institutions. Also contributing to this initiative is Evan Sermos, Woodshop Proctor. Sermos has been printing face shield frames and delivering them to the Wadells to assemble in their home lab.
At the suggestion of Michael Barker, Director of Academy Research, Sermos took home two 3D printers from the Makerspace to print frames. To speed up the printing process, Hailey Wadell reached out to Barker and Sermos to borrow a printer to use alongside her family’s own. In addition to face shields, the Wadells have produced sewn masks, “hands-free” devices for opening doors and cabinets, N95 respirator prototypes, and sewn mask adjusting loops.
“I think it’s very important [to help healthcare workers] because there [are] not enough supplies in terms of personal protective equipment to go around. Especially [Brian] Wadell and I, as engineers, we have the experience and the knowledge to be able to do something to actually help with [the pandemic], so by that, it’s almost our duty to be able to help out the situation and I find that it’s good to be doing something,” said Sermos.
Brian Wadell delivered their first face shield prototype to Tufts Medical Center on March 23, 2020, and has since produced 182 face shields. Donations have also gone to Bear Mountain Nursing Home, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Massachusetts General Hospital.
“It is stressful watching trouble unfold, doctors and nurses facing the virus, and not being able to help. Focusing on doing something that you can do is exhausting but it is a lot less stress,” said Brian Wadell.
According to Partners HealthCare, products in need are N95 masks, surgical or procedure masks, protective gowns, protective eyewear, exam gloves, sanitizers, and thermometers. Donations are checked for quality and clinical acceptance, meaning they must be unopened and cannot be expired, before distribution to hospitals.
“Talking to the doctors, nurses, and staff I have learned that there are a couple of ways [these donations help]. First and obviously, it gives [healthcare professionals] more P.P.E. to protect them until the major manufacturers can ramp [up] volume. Secondly, this protects patients from asymptomatic caregivers. Third, it lets them know that people outside the medical bubble care about them and want to help them through this stressful time,” said Brian Wadell.
These donations have been a full Wadell family effort; Hailey Wadell’s mother, Valerie Wadell, posted on the website for Hailey Wadell’s Burbank Y.M.C.A. Bluefins swim team, and members of the team donated swim goggles to be used on face shields. In addition to producing face shields, masks have been sewn by Hailey Wadell.
“The whole family and our swim team are contributing. Hailey made sewn masks which were donated to [Massachusetts General Hospital] and she designed the info sheet/instructions included in every bag of 5 masks. She also came up with the idea to use goggle straps for the masks so my wife, Valerie, used her social networking skills to get the [Y.M.C.A.] swim team involved,” said Brian Wadell.
The 3D printer company Prusa, under the leadership of president Josef Prusa, worked with the healthy ministry of the Czech Republic to create and share a design online for face shields that could be made by Prusa Printers. According to Brian Wadell, makers around the world began printing and making modifications to the original design within minutes.
“I quickly ran into a number of issues with the design. For example, I wasn’t able to get the specific elastic his design used and I don’t own a laser cutter, yet, for the transparent part. So, I modified the design to work with multiple types of bands, tourniquets, bungees, whatever I can get. Also the hospitals I worked with asked about the materials, so they can clean it properly, so I added a material label right in the print. I also designed a clip-on cover for the top,” said Brian Wadell.
Through online platforms such as prusaprinters.org, thingiverse.com, and 3dprint.nih.gov, makers are able to share their designs based on specific geographical needs. The designs are available to download free of charge. Brian Wadell encourages asking around in your community about how you can help. Whether it is someone who works at a hospital, doctor’s office, nursing home, or grocery store, you can help by figuring out what they need and trying to get it for them, according to Brian Wadell.
“In fact, the original Prusa design has been tweaked nearly 170 times to date by makers all over the world to quickly adapt to local needs. There are even designs that use 2l soda bottles as the shield…They need your help, yes, I mean you. This is our ‘super bowl’ moment, don’t sit on the sidelines,” said Brian Wadell.
Editor’s Note: Hailey Wadell is a Copy Editor for The Phillipian.