Medical shield for coronavirus being developed

University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers are working with Madison-area manufacturers to make medical face shields, which is an important piece of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers treating coronavirus patients.

By Tom Ziemer March 24, 2020

University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers are working with Madison-area manufacturers, the design consulting firm Delve, and campus colleagues on a product to help meet urgent and growing demand for medical face shields. They are key pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers treating coronavirus patients for UW Hospital. It’s also planning to deliver samples to other local hospitals for user feedback. The group also has published its design as open source and it is already being replicated by others across the world.

Since then, it has built prototypes and launched a website where it’s encouraging healthcare facilities, manufacturers and donors to fill out an intake form to help assess need and build more connections while production capacity is rapidly expanded. Given that Lennon’s wife, Jennifer Rodgers, is an anesthesiologist at UW Hospital, the goals are partly personal for him.

Made up of Lennon Rodgers, director of the Grainger Engineering Design Innovation Lab (makerspace) on the UW-Madison College of Engineering campus, and Mechanical Engineering Professor Tim Osswald; local manufacturers Midwest Prototyping, Placon, Plastic Ingenuity; and Minnesota-based Summit Medical, the team coalesced after an inquiry from UW Hospital to Rodgers on March 16.

“This is just one piece of the equation,” Rodgers said. “Hospitals need N95 masks and other critical equipment. Our aim is to provide the shields at cost and maybe free if donors step forward. We’d like to get 100,000+ packed up and shipped from Madison to hospitals in need ASAP.”

The group created a design based closely on the face shields currently in use at UW Hospital, and it has consulted throughout with Robert Scheuer, director of materials management at UW Health, to ensure the product is medical-grade quality.

Mass production isn’t a problem. Placon estimates it can churn out 5,000 plastic shields an hour, and Rodgers says assembly time to create the finished product, which entails adding an adhesive-backed foam strip and a latex-free elastic headband, takes less than 30 seconds for each unit.

At this stage, though, the team is still trying to gauge demand across the country and even beyond, and connect with specific healthcare facilities that are interested in ordering shipments of face shields. And Rodgers noted that other facilities, such as prisons and nursing homes, could also benefit from having shields as the virus continues to spread.

“We could almost certainly ship millions of face shields over time if we can put together the final pieces of manufacturing and distribution. Equally critical is continually identifying the hospitals that need the face shields.” he said.

University of Wisconsin-Madison


Author Bio: Tom Ziemer, University of Wisconsin-Madison