Texas Tech University

College of Architecture Helps Community by 3D-Printing Face Shields

Amanda Bowman

June 4, 2020

Professors from Texas Tech University and Texas Tech University at El Paso are using 3D-printing machines to make face shields for health care workers.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, so does the need for personal protective equipment (PPE). With Texas Tech University System campuses temporarily closed, 3D printers from the College of Architecture (CoA) at Texas Tech University and Texas Tech University at El Paso that would have been used by students for final projects now are being used to help health care workers get the PPE they desperately need.

Ersela Kripa, an assistant professor of architecture at Texas Tech University at El Paso, and Brendan Shea, a visiting instructor of architecture at Texas Tech, are leading the charge at their respective locations.

A TTUHSC El Paso employee wears a newly printed face shield.
A TTUHSC El Paso employee wears a newly printed face shield.

"In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the CoA at Texas Tech has initiated a multifaceted volunteer effort aimed at producing PPE at both the main campus in Lubbock and the satellite campus in El Paso," Shea said. "The work has been approached in several ways, from 3D-printing parts to drilling acetate sheets and assembling face shields to laser-cutting intubation chambers.

"The overall aim of this initiative is twofold: to make use of the CoA's advanced tools of digital fabrication and to leverage the expertise of the faculty and students in designing, making and prototyping in order to contribute toward the medical workers and patients on the frontline in the battle against COVID-19."

Kripa notes that CoA Dean Jim Williamson has been extremely supportive of their efforts.

"I essentially texted Dean Williamson and said, 'I know other architecture schools have started, or other colleagues are starting, to 3D-print these face shields. I know we have the capacity. I want to do it,'" Kripa said. "He has been fantastic and supportive. He purchased an additional 3D printer for us, so the CoA in El Paso now has four."

Williamson said he is awestruck at how the CoA rallied together to help others during this time.

"I could not be prouder of this group of CoA faculty and their efforts to help produce PPE to help fight this terrible virus," he said. "Ersela and Stephen Mueller in El Paso are now reaching out beyond the El Paso community and to Native American communities as well. Faculty, graduate students and staff also have been extraordinarily helpful in this effort at the CoA here in Lubbock. Brendan's initiatives to coordinate and collaborate with this group and other groups across campus at Texas Tech in Lubbock have been equally exemplary."

The CoA at El Paso worked with the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) El Paso to make sure the PPE they produced was up to medical standards. Once they had an approved prototype, Kripa and her partner on the project, Stephen Mueller, a research assistant professor of architecture at the CoA at El Paso, went to work.

3D-printed face shields in a variety of colors.
3D-printed face shields in a variety of colors.

The team delivered 500 3D-printed face shields to TTUHSC El Paso. Their next mission: making 100 face shields each for the 14 hospitals in El Paso, three of which are rural.

"We're working with TTUHSC El Paso, as well as with Simon Williams at TTUHSC in Lubbock, and they've connected us to rural hospitals around El Paso because the rural hospitals are probably going to be the most in need since they're so under served," Kripa said.

The CoA used the polylactic acid (PLA) filament that was untouched by students to print the face shields. PLA filament is a nontoxic, biodegradable and reusable material. This means the face shields can be disinfected easily and reused by doctors or nurses. But the most exciting part? The colors.

"We went through all of the materials we had left over from other projects throughout the years," Kripa said. "So, our face shields are the most fun spring colors. Stephen calls it 'the spring collection.' There are these bright reds and purples and yellows and pinks and greens just totally all over the place. I kind of like it, because I think other schools are doing either all whites or all red. Texas Tech's colors are a lot of fun, and when one of the health care professionals at TTUHSC in Lubbock accepted the face shields, they said, 'Hey, this will brighten up our day.'"

The CoA team in Lubbock has been contributing printed parts (450 face shield brims, 300 ear savers and assembly of 300 face shields) toward the West Texas 3D COVID-19 Relief Consortium, with the group having delivered a total of 3,211 face shields and 4,075 ear savers to 91 facilities across West Texas.

The deliveries have been made to locally to University Medical Center Lubbock, TTUHSC Lubbock and more broadly across the state to 76 rural hospitals, 27 correctional centers, 41 nursing/long-term care facilities and 25 referral centers.

Shea wanted to thank the team of people who dedicated their time and efforts to this cause.

"I'm working with a great and diverse team, helping to coordinate and manage communications, production and distribution between the CoA and the West Texas 3D COVID-19 Relief Consortium," he said. "I'd like to send thanks to everyone in the university-wide effort as well as our engaged members in the Lubbock CoA team: Victoria McReynolds, Sarah Aziz, Noémie Despland-Lichtert, Jeremy Wahlberg, Landon Wade and Mohamed Rezk in addition to support from CoA administration and facilities. In the shop, Jeff Hoover, Toni Huerta and Ana Garcia have produced 40 intubation chambers and prepared materials for 200 face shields."