WESTWOOD (CBSLA) — Engineers at the University of California Los Angeles have started using 3D printing and laser cutting equipment to produce surgical face shields in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Five hundred shields have been distributed to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and three other area hospitals, with another 500 set to be shipped Friday, UCLA bioengineering professor Jacob Schmidt said.
The team currently has the capacity to produce 100 shields per day at the UCLA Innovation Lab. However, the team was hoping to create designs solely involving laser cutting that could increase the rate of production to more than 1,000 per day.
Materials to develop each shield cost less than $1 and the shields were being distributed for free.
“Makerspaces are places where you can do prototyping and small-batch production very rapidly and inexpensively,” Schmidt said. “These qualities are in high demand right now, as we are being forced to come up with improvised solutions to address the lack of traditional equipment and devices.”
The head frames for the face shields are made using 3D printers and the shields themselves are laser cut from sheets of clear plastic. Schmidt said some materials have become hard to find and others have long shipping times, so close substitutions have been found for many of the materials.
The bioengineering professor teamed up with Doug Daniels, director of the Lux Labs at the UCLA Library, which offers 3D printing and other creative technologies.
Jayathi Murthy, the dean at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, said she was proud of the rapid response from the UCLA community during the public health crisis.
“As problem solvers at heart, we want to apply our knowledge to addressing the shortage of medical supplies at this critical moment,” she said. “This is our charge and the reason why we became engineers.”
Engineers are working closely with their colleagues at UCLA Health, the medical school and research groups throughout the engineering school, Murthy said.
Anyone wanting to support the work can donate to the school’s Problem Solvers Fund.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)