#UofReginaCares: Caring for our community
Alireza (Mehran) Talebitaher, Senior Post-Doctoral Researcher Department of Physics, models one of the 3D printed face shields that have been created by University of Regina researchers
Alireza (Mehran) Talebitaher, Senior Post-Doctoral Researcher Department of Physics, models one of the 3D printed face shields that have been created by University of Regina researchers Photos: U of R Faculty of Science

U of R researchers produce much-needed 3D printed face shields for health care workers

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: April 8, 2020 12:00 a.m.

As reports of personal protective equipment shortages for health care workers continue top the headlines around the world, members of the University of Regina research community have banded together to help find a solution.

Amid the chaos and confusion that has been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a team from the University has been collaborating to produce face shields for front line health care workers by using 3D printing technology.

Rising to a challenge initially proposed by Dr. Kathy McNutt, Vice-President (Research) at the University of Regina, a team of researchers, faculty, and staff primarily from the Faculty of Science and Department of Physics have been working together to mobilize and move the desperately needed face shields into production. The first face shield prototype was produced on April 2.

Face shields are printed in
stacks then are manually

It takes 22 hours of printing
to produce one stack of face

“The Prime Minister called on universities to rise up to help in the efforts to combat COVID-19,” said McNutt. “I reached out to Dr. Douglas Farenick, Dean of the Faculty of Science, to look into the availability of 3D printers on campus and how many more we could quickly procure. When the word got out in the Faculty, we had an overwhelming response from those offering their expertise.”

The Department of Physics had recently purchased a 3D printer to create parts for a physics detector; however, repurposing the printer to respond to the national shortage of face shields was done in short order.

“Our printer is the perfect size to produce much needed personal protective equipment for front-line health care workers,” said Dr. Gwen Grinyer, Assistant Professor Department of Physics.

A face shield, used in conjunction with a traditional face mask, offers superior protection to health care workers from airborne toxins – covering more potential disease entry points. Currently, equipment shortages have caused many health care workers to risk infection by reusing soiled masks and face shields beyond their usable life, or coming up with make-shift solutions. With this face shield design, the main headband portion of the mask is reusable and the face shield can easily be swapped out. 

Darren Cherwaty, the U of R’s Director of Health, Safety and Wellness, noted that as personal protective equipment becomes more scarce, having additional sources of production are very important for our health care providers. 

“We have been working with Regulators to make sure these face shields meet proper standards,” said Cherwaty. “Once we have the correct approvals and have enough produced, we will be able to distribute them to the Saskatchewan Health Authority.”

At the current rate, a stack of eight headbands can be created in 22 hours of 3D printing. With the expectation of delivery of at least two more 3D printers in the near future, the U of R could be able to produce 24 pieces per day – an impressive feat for a project conceived only two weeks ago.

“The collaborative and timely effort on this project speaks volumes about our personnel at this University in terms of their willingness to pitch in to help with the urgent needs of the health sector,” said Dr. Zisis Papandreou, Head of the Department of Physics. “Everyone was eager to jump in and contribute.” 

McNutt has also been impressed by the teamwork displayed by all in pursuit of a common goal. This includes Dr. Grinyer who donated the 3D printer and materials, Dr. Alireza (Mehran) Talebitaher who has manufactured the face shield headbands, Dr. Aram Teymurazyan who carried out research on 3D printer models and materials, Vincent Ignatiuk who researched materials, vendors, and facilitated communications, and Dr. Garth Huber and Dr. Papandreou who have worked together on planning.

“From Dean to researcher and from post-doc to staff members – everyone was responsive and generous with their time, equipment, and supplies. I could not be more proud of this team,” said McNutt. “In a time of crisis, heroes rise and that is what we are witnessing here at the U of R.”

Check out #UofReginaCares for more stories about U of R faculty, students, alumni, and staff who are using their ingenuity, resolve, and hearts to care for our community during these challenging times.


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