3D printers build face shields for hospital workers

LACEY, Wash. — A Thurston County organization is helping health care workers get the personal protective equipment they desperately need with the help of a cutting edge device.

At Lacey MakerSpace, 3D printers are piling up thin lines of plastic, turning spools of material into a shield, which will defend people on the coronavirus front lines.

"There were shortages all over the country and locally and we started to get requests asking for help,” said Joseph Anderson, Lacey MakerSpace director.

Face shields strap around the forehead and serve as a guard to protect health care workers when they’re around people who may be sick.

"These clear, plastic surfaces stop any bodily fluid or aerosol from touching your face or the cloth masks,” said Anderson.

Lacey MakerSpace is a community space that offers the public access to tools, classes and workshops. They help people build projects, learn to weld, offer 3D printing, robotics classes and much more.

When COVID-19 closed the shop, people didn't sit back and relax instead, they put their machines into action.

"Really, it became a grassroots call of, hey, there's a need, we have this great space, the Lacey MakerSpace, that could meet that need and volunteers came through and made it happen,” said Rick Walk, City of Lacey Director of Community and Economic Development.

The problem is, it takes hours to make one single face shield. With so many health care workers in need, Lacey MakerSpace put out a call for help.

Right away, 150 volunteers stepped up.

"They’ve been cranking out, using their own materials and donated supplies to help our health care workers and frontline responders,” said Anderson.

Most are making the shields in their own homes then dropping them off in front of the building.

So far, they've made about 200 3D printed face shields that they'll given to doctors, nurses, physicians and dentists across Thurston County.

They've already been asked to make hundreds more.

"It's such an overwhelming feeling, that generosity of spirit that everyone is pitching in. We all want to help those that are fighting this,” said Anderson.

Volunteers and their 3D printers are working around the clock, but it’s tough to keep up with demand. Those who would like to help by sewing, 3D printing, assembling kits, or more, can find more information on Lacey MakerSpace’s website.