3D Printing Club creates face shields, distributes to healthcare workers

Victor Ku (11) smiles behind a mask beside the 3D printer in his house. In order to keep the shields sterile for medical use, Ku wears a mask and gloves as he prints the face shields.

When Westview closed under emergency circumstances, Victor Ku (11), like many students, was thinking of a good way to use his time. While at home, Ku watched as news on COVID-19 unraveled and thought of a way to supply medical workers with a basic necessity: facial protection. As 3D Printing Club president, Ku set out to create facial protection with his 3D printer at home.

“I did my usual thing of searching up new 3D-printing trends online,” Ku said. “I realized that people were 3D-printing face shields, so I thought it was pretty cool and started doing research into it.”

Ku found files of measurements for the face shields that were previously tested in hospitals, and started creating the shields with those dimensions. The shield consists of a 3D-printed frame made with filament, a 3D printing plastic, and a simple plastic cover attached to the frame. Each shield, Ku said, took about 2 hours and cost less than a dollar to make. Ku buys the materials in bulk from Amazon or OfficeDepot.

As bacteria is prone to collect on the surface of the shield, Ku said sterilization is a major component prior to distributing the products. 

“I have to heat up the shields with my 3D printer to around 200 degrees Celsius to kill off any bacteria that gathers,” Ku said. “Then I store it in a Ziploc bag, and then deliver it to post offices in Carmel Valley, and the VA hospital.”

Strict protocol is then followed depending on which place the facial shields are delivered.

Ku said the main goal is to try to create as much of an impact as possible, no matter how small the act is.

“I’d say the overarching goal would be to help out as much as I can,” Ku said. “Overall, I’m hoping to basically spread awareness on this and try to get more people to join the effort.”

From communicating with other volunteers to organizing shipments, Ku said he thinks the effort is going well so far, with more than 80 face shields donated to post offices and 45 face shields to the VA hospital, considering only two people from the club are able to 3D-print from home.

One recipient was Susie Lim, a nurse for the eye sector at the VA Hospital in San Diego. Lim said the delivery of the shields was a true act of generosity and thoughtfulness.

“The face shield provides us with well-designed, protective equipment that allows us to focus on delivering eye care to patients rather than being overly concerned about our safety,” Lim said. “The generosity during these difficult times renews our hopes in the inherent goodness of people.”

Jack Chepin (11) also 3D prints face shields. Chepin said that while the effort is going well, lack of material could become an issue. .

“The only real obstacle is having to worry about filament running out and having to get more,” Chepin said.

Fortunately, Chepin and Ku haven’t experienced this issue yet. There is a fundraiser set up on the GoFundMe platform to support the ongoing effort.

“We still have some funds from previous fundraisers and grants before the pandemic,” Ku said. “We are burning through them pretty quickly for this project, so that’s why there’s a GoFundMe page.”

Ultimately, Ku said it’s important to take a positive approach towards the current time spent at home.

“For me personally, I think we are doing a fantastic job,” Ku said. “As long as we keep the efforts up, in addition to social distancing, I feel like we could definitely get through this together.”