Heartland helps make facemarks for healthcare providers, others

By Joseph Slacian

Officials at the Heartland Career Center are doing their best to help medical personnel and first responders during the ongoing pandemic caused by the Coronavirus.

With a shortage of masks in the healthcare industry, Heartland staff members are producing face shields using the school’s 3D printers and staff volunteers. 

Heartland received a message from a former Heartland instructor, Doug Shannon with a connection to a local healthcare facility needing a large supply of facemasks so that facemasks can be disinfected on a regular basis. 

Due to a shortage, the healthcare worker was using the same mask as the week prior without a chance to properly sterilize the mask before wearing again. 

The prototype, ‘Prusa Protective Face Shields RC3’ are a product of the Czech Ministry of Health originating from the Czech Republic.  The current prototype model allows printing one shield every four hours or six shields every nine hours.

With some collaboration of Heartland staff, Joe Halverson, Jon Higgins and David Brace, a new face shield prototype was developed, improving an increased production time to five to six shields per hour.  

The newest prototype still follows the stipulations of having a disposable rubber band strap component and the plastic shield, which can be disinfected, but also be produced at a rapid rate to help meet the demand. 

The plastic shield, Halverson said, can be disinfected once before it must be taken off and a new one replaces it.

The plastic shield is plastic used for laminating items, he said. The plastic components used to hold the shield in place can be disinfected with alcohol, while the rubber bands can be thrown out and replaced as needed. The mask designed by the Heartland staff also can be lifted up when not needed, similar to a welding mask.

“Jon and I were here on Sunday morning and we were 3-D printing,” Halverson said, discussing how the prototype was developed. “3-D printing was going to take four hours to produce one of the versions or nine hours to produce six of the other. We were talking that there’s got to be a faster way.

“He and I started getting things together, and this is what came out of it.”

While waiting for the new prototype to be approved, the production of the original protective face shields is continuing at the maximum speed and at other career centers across the state. 

Heartland is excited to partner with local healthcare facilities to make their environment safer that will make a big impact in the healthcare industry where workers are at risk in helping patients.

“We are fortunate to utilize our educational resources to help support a local need,” explains Mark Hobbs, Director of Heartland Career Center.  “We are fortunate to have local partners that support and help fund our educational equipment, which can now be used in this pandemic crisis to benefit workers who are jeopardizing their health for the needs of others.” 

Do It Best Hardware has been instrumental in helping produce the face shields, both Halverson and Higgins said.

“Do It Best Hardware has been very helpful with donating the acrylic and the fasteners,” said Halverson, Heartland’s precision machining instructor.

While they are working on the new face shields, the staff also is producing shields via the 3D printer.

“Some places prefer the 3D model,” Halverson said. “That’s fine. It just takes longer to produce.”

“We’re just trying to give back to the community that gives to us,” Halverson said. “Everything in here comes community funds, state funds, things of that nature.

“It’s just giving back to those who are risking it all. They’re there.”

Higgins, Heartland’s principal, said, “I think this is just a highlight of what community looks like. We’ve been supported numerous times through this community.”

A handful of Heartland staff members also have helped to produce the face shields.

“I know we’d have tons of people in here helping (if asked),” Higgins said. “We just don’t want to expose anyone else. People are more than willing to help; it’s a pretty cool opportunity. But, we’re just trying to give back what we’ve been given so much of.”

Parkview Wabash Hospital officials want 50 of the face shield devices, with another 500 of the plastic shields, Halverson said. A facility in Adams County which has ties to Wabash County also wants face shields, and officials hope to have enough to supply local first responders as well.

Posted on 2020 Apr 07