3D Printing PPE Update: Community volunteers and library staff chip in to help hospital

Brandon Patterson

Brandon Patterson
As the Technology engagement librarian, I connect you to digital tools and emerging technologies. I create meaningful experiences using prototyping tools, virtual reality and online learning platforms.

The University of Utah Libraries have been using a fleet of over 40 3D printers, with more than a dozen donated from Salt Lake County Libraries, to print Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the University of Utah hospital. The Center for Medical Innovation and the Library recently partnered to 3D print parts for a Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) system they created. We’ve also been connecting with faculty in Engineering, Design and other fields to come up with possible design solutions and 3D print prototypes to help offset the shortage of supplies including filter materials, N95 masks and other hard-to-supply PPE. 

To help meet the demand, we put out a call to volunteers in early March asking those who had 3D printers and material to help us in the 3D printed face shield project. We received over 90 volunteers from the community, ranging from students to local hobbyists to business leaders in the area. In early March, we sent off instructions on how to print the face shield bands on a 3D printer and have received over 700 parts because of the generous time and materials provided by community members. 

Here is one of those volunteers, Valerie Burnett from Westminster College’s Giovale Library, discussing why she volunteered to help:

“Hello! I’m Valerie Burnett, the Systems Librarian at the Giovale Library at Westminster College. As well as keeping our electronic resources running, I manage the library’s 3d printer. We learned about your face shield project from our director, who heard about it through the library director’s group that meets as part of the Utah Academic Library Consortium. Our library has just the one 3D printer, a Lulzbot Taz 6, and with the library closed, it hasn’t had as much to do. We were very happy to use the printer for something meaningful. During this pandemic, people’s responsibilities can feel very passive sometimes. Stay home. Don’t go out. Don’t go to work. Don’t meet with friends. Printing shields for healthcare workers was an opportunity to do something active, to feel like we’re actively contributing. I used up some of our older spools of filament, those spools that are starting to get brittle, so as a very small added bonus, the project helped us prevent waste.”

To complete the face shields, three Marriott Library staff members from the Preservation department in the library receive a box of several hundred face shield parts a week to assemble at home. After sanitizing a home workstation and cleaning up the 3D printed parts, they attach them to a clear-plastic shield covering the face and attach an elastic band on the back of the face shield to keep it secure on a healthcare worker’s head. They then drop them off at the Library where we deliver them to the hospital where they’ll be sanitized and used by frontline healthcare workers.

Here are photos of Marriott Library’s Preservation Staff, Frank Pester, Peggy Leo and Susan Schlotterbeck, in their homes assisting in the assembly of face shields. 

Marriott Library’s TJ Ferrill and Eccles Health Sciences Library’s Ben Engel are allowed special access to the library’s 3D printer fleet to assist in collecting, prototyping and 3D printing PPE.

3D PPE

We thank community volunteers and the library staff and for their help in this indelible effort!