UH West Oʻahu V.E.T.S. lab creates 3D-printed parts for protective equipment

Dr. Richard Jones wearing a face shield.

V.E.T.S. Program Director Dr. Richard Jones tries on a face shield, which includes a 3D-printed headband created at the V.E.T.S. lab – part of an effort to create much-needed PPE for local medical workers.

The University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu is doing its part to assist with the COVID-19 response with the help of 3D printers at the Veterans Empowered Through Stem (V.E.T.S.) lab.

Dr. Richard Jones, V.E.T.S. Program Director and Associate Professor of Science Education at UH West Oʻahu, is collaborating with UH West Oʻahu faculty, staff, and students, and community partners committed to the cause to create 3D-printed face shield headbands and face masks in an effort to address a need for personal protective equipment (PPE) for Oʻahu’s medical workers on the front line.

Jones said the endeavor originated on March 23 when Dr. Kamuela Yong, Assistant Professor of Mathematics, sent an email to the Mathematics, Natural and Health Sciences Division with a link to a PPE printing project at UCLA.

“He basically let everyone know that we had 3D printers here at UH West Oʻahu and said we could help,” Jones said. “After that, Dr. Custodio (Dr. Ricardo Custodio, Associate Professor of Health Sciences) reached beyond campus and contacted his colleagues at Queen’s West (The Queen’s Medical Center – West Oʻahu).”

The first versions of PPE parts were printed on March 25, “about a day after we were first contacted about the need for personal protective equipment from Queen’s West,” Jones said.

As of March 31, UH West Oʻahu had provided The Queen’s Medical Center – West Oʻahu with three different designs of PPE, including one N95 facsimile face mask, 12 UCLA face shield headbands in two different sizes, and two different versions of a Punahou model 4 face shield headbands.

Samples of 3D printed personal protective equipment.

Samples of 3D-printed face masks and headbands for face shields created at the V.E.T.S. lab.

“Queen’s West will evaluate the various designs, as well as two more UH West Oʻahu designs, over the next few days and then let us know what design and how many are needed,” Jones said.

Dr. Jason Levy (Professor with the Public Administration Department) has also been working on a suitable design for the 3D face shield, editing the original design that came from UCLA,” said Chantal Dewall, V.E.T.S Program Assistant Director.

UH West Oʻahu’s V.E.T.S. lab has nearly one dozen 3D printers, with about eight of them actively printing PPE parts. Depending on the part, each project can take between 1 to 1 1/2 hours and 4 to 5 1/2 hours.

“We have had two of our Veterans Empowered Through STEM interns come into the lab – while maintaining social distancing – to ensure that the printers are all in good working order, so we can make as many models as possible for this cause,” Dewall said.

V.E.T.S. intern Brian Moyer said he’s happy to assist and isnʻt looking for any kind of recognition for his role.

“I just enjoy 3D printing and wanted to help,” Moyer said.

Ryan Griffin, the other veteran intern, echoed Moyer’s sentiments.

“I am excited to be able to contribute to the response efforts and really put our 3D printers to good use,” Griffin said.

A 3D printer creating a headband.

A V.E.T.S. lab 3D printer creates a headband, which will be used for a face shield.

The V.E.T.S. lab is in room E-135 in the laboratory building. “E-building is closed, but we access the lab while maintaining social distancing – marked by tape at each machine – and notify facilities and security each time it needs to be accessed,” Dewall noted.

Jones added that he has also been in touch with Sam Durham, organizer of a local GoFundMe fundraiser, “Hā – 3D Printed Reusable N95 Mask.”

“It is highly likely that the V.E.T.S. Program will be part of this effort, too,” Jones said.

In addition to the 3D printer products being created in the V.E.T.S. lab, UH West Oʻahu is finding other ways to help with the need for PPE.

By Friday, March 27, UH West Oʻahu had donated to Queen’s West three dozen pairs of protective eye covers/safety goggles and loaned out a UV sanitizing cabinet for goggles and safety glasses.

Dewall added: “Dr. Jones and his wife will also be creating and sewing masks, which we will all participate in making – after my lesson of course – for donation to Kaiser (Permanente Moanalua Medical Center) through her quilting group.”

Not everyone has the ability to create, design, and build 3D objects, but everyone has the ability to contribute in some way, Jones said.

“I think we are aware of the dire need for PPE and when the call came out to help, we were more than happy to lend our machines, and our design expertise to this project,” Jones said. “I think that everyone wants to help and we have the ability to contribute.”

Image courtesy of Zenaida Serrano Arvman