3D Printed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Face Shields

Published 4-5-2020Last updated 4-5-2020

Many hospitals are running low on personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies during the COVID-19 crisis. Continuing to use new, commercially-produced PPE would be ideal, but this is not feasible for many patient care facilities. With low supplies, reusing PPE has become a necessity. However, some commercially-produced PPE is difficult to reuse. For example, face shields with foam cushions are difficult to clean.

3D printing offers an alternative means for producing PPE while facilities await additional commercial supplies. Thankfully, community members have experience in 3D printing and a willingness to help. In our case, three local high school teachers, Allen Thoe, Brian Bartlett and Tim Colbert, heard about diminishing supplies. Out of concern for our healthcare team, they volunteered their time and expertise to produce reusable face shields. Allen, a computer science teacher, and Brian, an engineering teacher, began the process of printing the face shields. They obtained approval from their principal and the school district to use the school’s printers and supplies. They recruited Tim from a neighboring high school.

For the frame, they used a Raise 3D Pro 2 3D printer and printed with Polylactic Acid (PLA) material. They based their design on an open-source face shield created by Prusa Research. The extensive Prusa website provides the files to print the design, updates and additional resources. Other groups have used the Prusa design as a basis for healthcare face shields, including the UCSF Makers Lab.

The three teachers modified the Prusa RC1 design slightly to make the frames easier to print. The printing files they used for the face shield frame as a single unit and as a stack of 8 can be downloaded here:

Face Shield Frame Single.stl

Face Shield Frame Stack of 8.stl

For the clear protective panels, they used 24” x 48”, 0.01” thickness clear polyester sheets and cut them into 9" x 12" pieces with a paper cutter. The clear plastic sheets were difficult to find locally due to increased demand, but they were able to locate some when they extended their search to neighboring counties. To complete the face shields, they used cut strips of ⅝-inch buttonhole elastic for the headband.

The face shields can be wiped clean with appropriate virucidal wipes.

The first batch was distributed to thrilled emergency medicine resident and fellow physicians. There are more in the works. We want to thank these three incredible teachers for initiating this enormous, generous project to help protect our team!

Lessons learned from Allen, Brian and Tim:

The dimensions of the shield may exceed your printer's capacity. The minimum required dimensions of the plate are 7" x 7".

We cut the holes for the plastic sheets using a laser cutter. The accuracy of the laser cutter made the process easy, but alternatively you could use a hole punch.

If you cannot get the 0.01” clear plastic sheets, you can use standard size (8.5” x 11”) transparency or lamination sheets from an office supply store. The lamination sheets can be laiminated so that the plastic holds its form. We discovered that small bubbles formed in the lamination sheets, which did not affect function but were cosmetically less desirable.

We printed the frames with holes to decrease the amount of PLA used, but these holes do leave an imprint on the forehead. A solid frame may be easier to clean and would not leave an imprint.

We found that the bottom handle piece was unnecessary and removed it. Removing it made the shields easier to make and clean. It also makes them compatible with other thicknesses of plastic sheets.

Image gallery showing the printing process:

Carousel image3D Printer Printing Face ShieldLaser CutterSingle Face ShieldFace Shields on TableDoctor Wearing Face Shield