Coronavirus Coverage from KARK

3-D printers in Iowa fired up to make medical face shields


CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Several Iowa companies have partnered together to utilize 3-D printers to make face shields to donate to local hospitals.

Amid a national shortage of protective face shields for health care workers, businesses and non-profits are gettng creative to help solve the problem.

When Iowa hospitals put out an urgent call on Facebook for protective gear, leaders with Newboco and Beratek Industries put their heads together to see what they could do.

Using their connections and expertise, they set up a community 3-D printing network.

“From a financial perspective, it makes zero sense but from a humanity perspective, it makes perfect sense,” they said.

Newboco has become ground zero for a community-wide effort to print and assemble protective shields for area health care workers.

“Hospitals are just using personal protective equipment way faster than they normally do. So, there’s this gap until the good stuff comes in. They need a temporary answer to protect the staff, protect the patients, and so we’re trying to build temporary usable stuff that will solve most of the problem,” explains Eric Engelmann, Newboco Executive Director.

Newboco is a nonprofit that helps businesses innovate. Using their connections and combining technical experience from Beratek Industries, they began printing prototypes. They started with an open source design found online.

“We started there and then me being an engineer manufacturing expert, I just created my own fix that I knew would be quick and easy to put together,” says Gerald Beranek, Beratek Industries Owner.

Now, they’re working with health care professionals to perfect the design, one that can be quickly assembled.

“If this goes really badly for society we might need 100,000 units across all the hospitals in Iowa. That’s the only way we’re going to get there within the next you know five days,” adds Engelmann. “One probably takes between three and four hours to print. And so, you can’t do this with one printer, you have to have many printers, and so that’s where the community came in.”

Since Sunday around 100 Iowans with printers of their own were getting involved with everyone just trying to do their small part.

“I have friends and family in the health care industry and I don’t want them to get sick and so everybody needs it. It’s just, it’s the human thing to do,” he says.

The printers are on loan from the Cedar Rapids Community School District. The hospitals are also accepting used protective shields. Everything will be sanitized before use.

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