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Published: April 16, 2020

Community Donors Help Continue Fab Lab’s Effort in Making Face Shields for Health Care Workers

In response to the community’s shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), The University of Tampa has been making protective face shields for health care workers — including shields going to Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg and Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa— using the tools from its digital fabrication lab, or Fab Lab.


In response to the community’s shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), The University of Tampa has been making protective face shields for health care workers. Photo by Emma Quintana

To help continue the effort, several community partners have stepped up financially, including a $10,000 donation from Citi.

“Citi is proud to partner with UT in providing students, faculty and staff the necessary resources to turn a teaching moment into a practical commodity,” said Sterling Ivey, public affairs director of Citigroup Tampa. “The work to support local first responders and health care providers is commendable, and we are happy to play a very small part.”

Other donors include a member of the UT College of Arts and Letters Advisory Board who made an anonymous gift toward this critical initiative, given their professional interests with both the arts and healthcare.

Emma Quintana, coordinator of UT’s Fab Lab (a workshop equipped with tech-enabled tools for students in the arts to foster creativity and innovation located inside R.K. Bailey Art Studios), is making protective face shields — visors that wrap around the head and include a plastic shield that is long enough to cover health care workers' glasses and N95 respirator.

Emma Quintana, coordinator of UT’s Fab Lab, is making protective face shields — visors that wrap around the head and include a plastic shield that is long enough to cover health care workers' glasses and N95 respirator. Photo by Quintana

Quintana has made 700 shields since mid-March. The additional funding will help with the cost of the plastic for the face shields, which has increased due to demand. It also allows her to decrease the time it takes to print the shields by purchasing parts that increase capacity on the 3D printers.

She is using equipment from the Fab Lab: 3D printers to create the shield frame and a laser cutter to precisely cut the clear plastic shield. Then she adds elastic to the back. She was inspired by others in the global Fab Lab community who were sharing instructions on how to print 3D face shields.

“There is a thriving open source 3D printing community, and many makers around the country are working to address the PPE (personal protective equipment) shortages within their local communities,” said Quintana. “These recent shortages and the role local makers are taking by becoming small scale manufacturers show the flexibility of these spaces and the ingenuity of the making community: arts and engineers working together.”

Since spring break, Quintana has been reaching out to health care workers, testing sites and hospitals to see if the Fab Lab could assist with the shortages.

"During this unprecedented time, we appreciate the outpouring of community support for our health care workers on the front lines," said Dr. Joe Perno, vice president of medical affairs and the vice chairman of the Department of Medicine at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, which has received shields from Quintana. "We are especially thankful for the university’s donation because face shields are a vital component of personal protective equipment that keep our staff safe during patient care."

Other recipients include Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa General Hospital and a COVID-19 testing site, all in Tampa, and AdventHealth Centers.

“The appreciation that I've received from the few individuals I've donated to is heartwarming,” said Quintana, who is making the shields in between teaching her courses remotely. “We are all doing our best for others during this time by socially isolating and modifying our daily routines, our workdays and our academic lives. I'm giving back in my own my way, but so are many others.”

While she works alone in the lab on campus, Quintana said she feels far from isolated, since she is in contact with other makers from other institutions regularly.

“It's an amazing feat we are accomplishing, and it gives many of us a way to give back to our real heroes, medical workers,” Quintana said. “The idea that we don't have to wait for factories abroad to deliver these life-saving objects is pretty incredible.”


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