As befits a university known for innovation and technology – as well as its community support – Florida Tech has harnessed the power of its constellation of 3D printers and the ingenuity of its faculty, staff and students to assist frontline workers in the Space Coast medical community.
Using 3D printers at various locations on the university’s Melbourne campus and at its nearby Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Innovative Design, the team led by College of Engineering and Science Dean Marco Carvalho and including student project coordinator Juan Avendano Arbelaez, lab director Deep Patel and electronic lab manager David Beavers has produced and delivered dozens of face shields.
Students and staff were engaged in the production process and were quick to respond to the feedback provided by recipients, including local doctors who suggested minor alterations that were implemented on the same day.
“It was very rewarding to see the appreciation of the heath workers who received these,” said Carvalho, who helped coordinate the effort and facilitate design improvements and distribution. “I’m extremely proud of our Florida Tech team that, without hesitation, jumped into action to work days, nights and weekends to help our community.”
An effort led by Deep Patel also led to the rapid production of 3D-printer-generated face mask extensions for a team of Florida-based respiratory therapists.
The team also worked on designing face masks and testing and producing prototypes, including masks that can be sized for children, and unlike common disposable masks, can be reused via a replaceable filter. Design guidance came from the Billings Clinic in Montana, which posted a stereolithography (STL) file for public use. (These types of files are used with computer-aided design software that allows for 3D printing.)
The mask creation process sparked some innovative concepts from Florida Tech students. One design under consideration involves an ultraviolet mask that creates an electrical charge when the user breathes, potentially drawing airborne viruses to the mask and killing them. While still early in the design process, concepts like that reminded team member David Beavers of the creativity and out-of-the-box thinking displayed so often by Florida Tech students.
“I’m amazed by our students almost on a daily basis,” he said. “We have some of the most creative people I’ve ever seen in my life. It really is amazing some of the ideas they come up with.”
The total volume of face shields the university can produce remains modest at this point, but as Beavers noted, even a few can mean the difference between safety and possible contamination.
“If you can deliver even a couple dozen to a medical facility, an intake, or one of these testing centers where they’re constantly exposed, or even to a local business, it makes a difference,” he said.