Ann Arbor residents join effort to print medical gear at home

Operation Face Shield Ann Arbor is using this 3D printer design developed by Prusa Printers. (Prusa Printers)

ANN ARBOR – Operation Face Shield Ann Arbor was started by local resident and registered nurse Kevin Leeser. He launched the Facebook group in an effort to rally residents with 3D printers to print face shields as local hospitals face shortages of essential personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Leeser found links to pre-programmed designs that can easily be printed at home and he hopes anyone with a 3D printer will join in the effort.

“If you have a 3D Printer -- start printing. I know its not time-efficient, but right now it’s the only thing that works from home,” Leeser wrote on his website.

It takes three hours to print the base for one face shield. Transparency paper is then fastened onto the base using a three-hole punch -- a modification developed by an engineering student at Skyline High School who’s father is a friend of Leeser’s.

The call to action came from his experience in medicine in disaster zones.

“I’m kind of used to third world medicine and not having what we have here,” said Leeser. He said that there is a need for the face shields at U-M Hospital.

“Right now, the hospital has some pretty thin goggles and there’s a lot of splash area," he said. "They don’t cover your nose and they’re disposable.”

The homemade face shields can be cleaned and reused.

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Residents have been sharing pictures of their prototypes and daily updates from area hospitals, clinics, businesses, community centers and shelters that can use the protective shields.

Ann Arbor Public Schools joined in the effort after Leeser contacted superintendent Jeanice Kerr Swift and Board of Education trustee Jeff Gaynor asking to utilize the district’s 16 3D printers. Engineering teachers are now printing face shields at home using the printers.

“After a press release was sent out from the superintendent, all of these people started volunteering," said Leeser. “I put out this pickle barrel (outside my house) to collect them with bleach water. The minute they drop them in, the part will be sterilized. So far I got five.”

Bill Van Loo is a technology, engineering and design educator at A2 STEAM and explains the printing process in the video below.

Huron Valley Ambulance has reached out to Leeser for 200-400 homemade shields, and he has made deliveries to Bryant Community Center, the Delonis Center and Tsai Grocery.

Want to get involved?

Join the Operation Face Shield Ann Arbor Facebook group.

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.