Face shields from a 3D printer

How the Innovation Center team is helping relieve the shortage of personal protective equipment

Production is in high gear on the sixth floor of the Innovation Center, where the so called Makerspace is housed. Where innovators typically build prototypes using a variety of tools and technologies, including laser cutters as well as augmented and virtual reality devices, four 3D printers operate around the clock to produce face shields earmarked for use in healthcare facilities and hospitals, helping protect healthcare staff from Covid-19 infection. In collaboration with colleagues from Healthcare and Logistics, the Makerspace team has already donated several hundred of these face shields to health organizations in Germany and Italy.

Daily output is remarkable: The team produces up to 200 shields a day, for a total of over 1,700 to date. This quantity is impressive for a 3D printing process; such printers normally require several hours for just a single part. "That's how we actually started in late March," explains Christopher Koch, who supervises the Makerspace in the Innovation Center. "But in cooperation with Makerspace Verein Darmstadt e.V., we have succeeded in optimizing the model so that we can produce it faster."

The printers even produce the holders for securing the shield to the wearer's head. The transparent protective shield is made of the same foils that were used for overhead projectors not too long ago. These foils can be quickly and easily ordered along with normal office supplies. The foils are punched, the corners are rounded and the foils are clipped onto the holders – and the face shield is finished.

Colleagues from our Healthcare business sector ensure that the face shields are disinfected as prescribed, and since some of the face shields are destined for Italy, they have also established the contacts with the Italian institutions and organized the shipments.

A joint effort for a good cause

Who came up with the idea to use 3D printers to make face shields? It was truly a joint effort. "In the Innovation Center, we have been working together with Makerspace Verein Darmstadt e.V. for some time on various projects. And at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, we have also long had a cross-divisional 3D printing community. Healthcare expertise was added to the mix. One thing led to another, and we simply tried it out," says Christopher Koch.

The "Darmstadt model"

The face shields even have an official name: the Darmstadt model. Several companies are now using 3D printers to produce other face shield models for protection against infections. In principle, all of these products have a similar design, but the Darmstadt model, which is printed in the Innovation Center among other places, definitely has one distinction: These face shields are solely donated, not sold. This is important to the project team, which has enthusiastically dedicated itself to the good cause. Makerspace Verein Darmstadt e.V. distributes the products to institutions in need.

One of the four 3D printers producing the holders

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