JEFFERSON — In a project that has lasted nearly four weeks, the Wilkes Community College Ashe Campus group has now delivered 741 3D-printed face shields to various locations in the High Country as of April 27.
These shields have been donated to several healthcare workers to use to protect themselves against any possible exposure to COVID-19.
Recently, Chris Kearley who is an applied engineering instructor at the WCC Ashe Campus, obtained the 3D printing program from Duke University to make a converter manifold for surgical suits.
Kearley printed eight of these manifolds for Ashe Memorial Hospital’s use.
“I am very proud of Chris’s willingness to serve the medical community during this challenging time. What was conceived as a small project to meet the needs of Ashe Memorial has developed into a regional resource that has provided vital PPE to providers around the region,” said Chris Robinson, VP of Ashe Campus and Workforce Development and Community Education. “The Stryker converters is yet another way he has taken his skills and used them to provide needed equipment. He exemplifies what Wilkes Community College is about in serving the community in any way possible.”
According to Director of Community Outreach Melissa Lewis, the hospital has been trying to come up with alternative options for their team members. Duke University had released the prints in order for others to duplicate the pieces to convert AMH’s Stryker suits into powered air-purifying respirator systems.
According to Lewis, a Stryker suit has an air system that is used in an operating room during certain surgeries. With the converter piece that WCC 3D printed, it allows the hospital to use this machine for patients that possibly have been infected with COVID-19.
“It essentially allows this unit to become an additional PAPR. A PAPR allows for a closed air system that filters the air within the mask,” Lewis said.
The WCC Ashe Campus face shield project is also still going strong. Mike Windish, Engineering Instructor at Ashe County High School, said 3D printers are not high production machines; only one shield can be printed at a time and the machines are running anywhere from 15 to 20 hours per day.
According to Windish, they get a print about every 1.5 hours. The assembly of each face shield is completed at the Ashe Campus where several pieces such as the hardware for the face shield and the elastic strap is added to what has been printed.
Kearley said the group is continuing to work on other COVID-19 related projects at this time.