Facing the Fight: WISRD Uses 3D Printing Technology to Provide PPE to Healthcare Workers
Posted 04/01/2020 02:00PM

Left to right: face shield headpieces; WISRD Director Joe Wise at a 3D printer.

As a research lab, the Wildwood Institute for STEM Research and Development (WISRD) is concerned with issues facing its local, regional, and global community. 

With the world facing an unprecedented challenge in stopping the spread of COVID-19, it’s no surprise that WISRD Director Joe Wise is taking this mission to heart, using the Institute’s equipment, technology, and expertise in 3D printing to address the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers.

“In times of crisis, it is always important to look at your resources and find how you can contribute,” Joe said. “This isn’t WISRD conducting high school science experiments; this is WISRD using its leading-edge technology and experience to meet the needs of its community.”

When Wildwood School shifted to a distributed learning model in mid-March, Joe and his colleagues loaded up WISRD’s five 3D printers and set up remote operations in his garage at home. Ever since, he’s been running the machines 24/7, creating face masks and shields for the University of Southern California’s Keck Medical Center.

At USC’s request given the capacity of Wildwood’s equipment, Joe recently shifted operations to produce the much-needed shields exclusively. To date, he has produced 15 masks and nearly 500 shields, at a rate of approximately two shields every two hours.

The work is part of a larger effort coordinated by the USC School of Architecture, with the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. Wildwood School is one of just a handful of eligible secondary schools with the printing experience and equipment capable of contributing finished, usable products, alongside architecture firms and universities.

Working from home offices, school print shops, and firm fabrication facilities, the group has coordinated file sharing and manufacturing initiatives to optimize and perfect the 3D printing files for an N95-like mask. The 3D-printed components are designed to snap together and require the addition of a HEPA filter insert and perimeter sealant to properly function.

The effort was recently endorsed by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who, in a recent COVID-19 update, shared the City’s support for the #OperationPPE initiative.

“I’m proud to announce we’re mobilizing our architecture, design, and manufacturing communities to utilize 3D-printing technologies to aid in the response,” Garcetti said.

For Joe, it’s an opportunity to make an immediate, meaningful impact in community, while also providing WISRD members with a real-time glimpse of STEM collaboration in action.

“Although we may feel separated during this time of physical distancing, technology proves we’re anything but,” Joe said. “Never before has expertise and open-source content been able to move so freely, creating vast networks bound together for a common cause.”