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Making Shields for the Front Lines of COVID-19

CTEC joins battle to produce needed PPE

As the coronavirus spreads, healthcare workers have become our front-line defenders – waging war against the virus in emergency rooms and screening locations across the United States.

At Yavapai College, instructors at the Career and Technical Education Center (CTEC) are using equipment and ingenuity to give those health care workers more to fight with. "We have all this capability," YC’s Matt Mintzmyer said. "Why not try to help?"

Mintzmyer, a Professor of Aerospace Science and Naval Reservist, heads Yavapai College’s UAS Program (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) which uses 3D printers to create components for drones. In early April, Mintzmyer began refitting one of the 3D printers to produce personal protective equipment (PPE), specifically the clear face-shields currently in short supply.

"ASU reached out to us to see if we wanted to work collaboratively." YC got the face shield design from Arizona State, which is working with several partners to equip southern Arizona.

"But Northern Arizona and Yavapai County were not being serviced." So Mintzmyer coordinated with local Emergency Management officials to create PPEs for Yavapai County. "Yavapai County Emergency Management is requesting around 40 face masks a day."

Mintzmyer’s original modifications allowed one of YC’s 3D Maker Bots to produce a mask frame every three hours. By mid-April, with assistance from UAS faculty member Spencer Coffin, CTEC’s industrial-sized 3D printer was brought online to create face shield frames in the new Fabrication Lab.

With visor production ramping up, the College still needed clear plastic for the shields and 5/8" inch elastic bands to hold the headgear in place. Here, the Yavapai College Foundation jumped into action, making bulk purchases of .050 mil clear plexiglass as well as the elastic. YC Performing Arts also donated some elastic from its costume shop.

By month’s end, a little ingenuity and a desire to help local health care workers has blossomed into an impressive, multi-colored production line.

"We are somewhere over 300 pieces now," Coffin said. "The printers are printing out between 20 and 30 a day. We just donated the first batch to Yavapai County Health Services."

The CTEC program is also exploring the possibility of producing nasal swabs for testing centers. Anyone with leads on raw material is encouraged to contact CTEC at (928) 717-7375 or (928) 910-9099.