With courses moved online as a result of COVID-19, Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) institutions have repurposed advanced manufacturing technology centers to help meet the state’s need for personal protective equipment (PPE). Responding to the immediate and critical need, community colleges, including Asnuntuck, Housatonic, Naugatuck Valley, Northwestern, and Tunxis, have begun to produce face shield frames for area hospitals and nursing homes.
Utilizing additive manufacturing technology, including 3D printers, the colleges are using approved designs to manufacture the plastic frames. The 3D printed items are designed so a piece of polyethylene sheeting can be attached and provide a protective barrier between health care workers and their patients.
Western Connecticut State University has also donated a 3D printer to a local hospital.
“Connecticut’s health care workers – many of whom are graduates of CSCU institutions – are on the front line, combatting this virus every day,” CSCU President Mark Ojakian said. “With critical shortages of PPE, CSCU institutions, employees, and students are stepping up and making a difference in the state’s response to the outbreak. It is a small part of the overall solution, but we are proud to be part of this concerted effort.”
North-West Region (Asnuntuck, Naugatuck Valley, Northwestern, and Tunxis Community Colleges):
Chris Foster, an advanced manufacturing instructor specializing in additive manufacturing at Asnuntuck Community College has been leading the on-ground effort at the college and producing 20-25 face shield brackets per day. On Sunday, he delivered 63 brackets to a local hospital and aims to deliver an additional 100 this weekend. Asnuntuck is also printing ventilator adaptor manifolds and flexible re-usable face masks.
“We are working with more than a half million dollars’ worth of 3D printers at Asnuntuck to produce face shield mounting frames, ventilator expansion manifolds, and flexible re-usable face masks,” Foster said. “We are collaborating with the CSCU community college system to help any hospital that needs equipment that can be produced in plastic, in additive manufacturing.”
“CSCU institutions, including Asnuntuck, Housatonic, Northwestern, Naugatuck Valley, and Tunxis Community Colleges are proud to assist the State of Connecticut in responding to the COVID-19 crisis and protecting our frontline heroes,” said Dr. James Lombella, Regional President North-West Region, Connecticut Community Colleges.
“Asnuntuck is thankful that we can assist with the fight against this virus,” said Asnuntuck’s interim Campus CEO Michelle Coach. “We are in an unprecedented time and hope we can help save lives. Community colleges in Connecticut have also donated protective goggles and gloves, among other needed items, to healthcare facilities throughout the State of Connecticut. Asnuntuck alone, is donating 9,000 gloves and nearly 200 pairs of protective goggles.”
Asnuntuck, Tunxis and Housatonic will be donating their finished shields to St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, a member of Trinity Health of New England’s network of hospitals.
Naugatuck Valley Community College has 3D printers and highly skilled faculty to produce parts that could be used in respirators, face masks, and other necessary PPE. Currently, they are collaborating with a local business, Danker Design, LLC, that is organizing private companies and individuals to donate time and material to print 20,000 face shields in 20 days. The college is also working with both Waterbury Hospital and Western Connecticut State University to identify best ways to use equipment and personnel to ensure our communities get what they need for the medical profession.
“NVCC is a very willing partner in our communities’ efforts to defeat this pandemic,” said Dr. Daisy Cocco De Filippis, NVCC’s president. “I am grateful for the talent and generosity of colleagues, as we stand ready to do our part to support our health care givers and those who need our support.”
A 3D specialist at the college, Chuck Buchanan, partnered with St. Mary’s Hospital to produce an important component of face shields, using the college’s 3D printers. Working with the hospital, Buchanan produced and delivered 17 of these components in two days. The project is now pivoting to producing other components, and NVCC looks forward to continuing to assist with this important work.
Tunxis Community College interim Campus CEO Dr. Darryl Reome said, “We are grateful to all of the doctors and health care organizations in our communities who are working long hours to save lives, and are glad that we can contribute to this effort to help prevent and reduce their risk of exposure to COVID-19.”
“We are hearing the need for PPE and talking with our colleagues around the state to see how we can work together to utilize the additive manufacturing equipment we have on campus to be able to help produce the needed PPE. We have the equipment and want to help in any way we can in the best way we can,” said Mary Bidwell, interim dean of Advanced Manufacturing Technology for Tunxis and Asnuntuck Community Colleges.
Staff and students from some of the campuses are assisting with the creation of the frames.
“Northwestern faculty and students are using their time to help our first responders, by 3D printing face shields and associated parts urgently needed by our first responders,” said Northwestern Connecticut Community College President Dr. Michael A. Rooke. “The equipment and funds are being provided by the National Science Foundation through a grant. I am delighted that our College’s very innovative and entrepreneurial faculty and students are able to make this contribution that will help us all. I know our local healthcare workers are very grateful for any assistance that the community can provide.”
Face shield frames printed at Northwestern will be donated to Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in Torrington.
Shoreline-West Region (Gateway, Housatonic, and Norwalk Community Colleges):
Working remotely, Housatonic Community College instructors George Scobie, Adam Scobie, and Tristan Hunte borrowed nine 3D printers owned by the college, and are privately donating the plastic materials and labor to build the frames. On day four of the effort, the team has already built a total of 150 frames at Scobie’s business, MRH Tool in Milford.
“This vital effort between our community college manufacturing programs will go a long way toward helping to protect the healthcare workers on the front lines of this crisis,” said Dr. Thomas Coley, Shoreline-West regional president and interim Campus CEO at Gateway and Housatonic Community Colleges. “I am extremely grateful to Professor Scobie and the HCC faculty who are proactively responding to this critical need. I commend everyone who is dedicating themselves to this effort.”
“Instructor George Scobie is leading a group of HCC instructors, working remotely with HCC 3D printers to produce face shield frames approved by St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, to fit the 20,000 face shields they have but cannot use without frames,” Rich DuPont, Director of Community and Campus Relations for the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center at Housatonic said.
Western Connecticut State University:
The Western Connecticut State University (WCSU) Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, in coordination with the Department of Information Technology & Innovation, programmed a 3D printer to manufacture a component used in the assembly of protective face shields for medical personnel. The printer was delivered to St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, which made the original inquiry, and another is available for additional hospitals.
“This crisis requires everyone to do their own small part,” said Dr. John B. Clark, president of WCSU. “Western is proud to work collaboratively with our fellow CSCU institutions to make a real difference in the state’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts.”