Home COVID-19 3D Printing Coronavirus Emergency Supplies: DC Area Network in Action

3D Printing Coronavirus Emergency Supplies: DC Area Network in Action


by A Siegel

Around the world, institutions and individuals are rising to Coronavirus life-threatening challenges. In the United States, a searing issue are medical supply shortages for personal protective equipment (PPE) that have had hospital personnel using trash bags for protective gowns and people sewing surgical masks at home as one aspect of grassroots efforts to fill in gaps driven (in no small part) by inept (if not criminally negligent) Trump Administration actions prior to and amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It isn’t just sewing machines that are being leveraged to address face mask shortfalls. As reported in Blue Virginia the other day, Woodbridge Senior High School teacher Carlos Castro targets 3D printing 200 masks a week for donating to hospitals.

A truly critical piece of PPE to protect those truly on the front line in the battles to save lives: face shields. As with essentially every PPE item, there are face shield supply shortfalls. As with masks, there are many stepping up to close the supply gap ranging from plastics manufacturers shifting production to 3D DIY (do-it-yourself) home printing efforts across the country.

In the DC area, high school student Jonah Docter-Loeb has put together a network of 50 people cooperating to print PPE supplies for medical personnel.   What follows is a brief email interview with Jonah Loeb with responses as of late in the evening 5 April:

How many people / 3D printers involved?

3D printing parts for face shields

I checked the spreadsheet a few minutes ago, and we have 50 individuals 3d printing the face shields. For the past week, we’ve been growing by about 5 people per day. Those 50 individuals have a combined 75 printers.

What equipment (face shields? otherwise?)are  being produced?

Shields, but we are testing other equipment (respirator valves, N-95, etc.). I would not be surprised if this time next week we  would’ve added some other gear to the menu. Everything is changing by the day, with new designs being improved upon constantly.

What are highest needs (on your end/in supplies) to meet incoming requests/demands?

0.015-0.03 inch thick PETG or Polycarbonate plastic sheets of any size (the bigger the better). Elastic was also an issue, but we just switched over

Donated face shields

to printing a simple model that does not require elastic with 1/2 of our printers. If you know anyone with resources to donate, please refer them to this form. 

What hospitals/otherwise are you supporting?

Currently we have donated to: MedStar Washington Hospital Center, United Medical Center, and Unity Health Clinic. That said, we are in contact with major hospitals across the area who will likely receive donations in the coming weeks. We are also in contact with nursing homes in the area. If you know someone who works at a place treating individuals with COVID-19 or at-risk individuals then please refer them to this form. 

Are you connected with/networked with others doing similar things elsewhere?

Partnering with DC Mutual Aid who are providing us with contact with hospitals across the area.
We are also working with Eaton DC, which has provided us with a headquarters in their maker space for us to set up shop and generous resources

Who would you want contacted if someone wants to join network?

If they are interested in getting involved in the organizational sides of things or know how to operate a 3D printer but don’t have one, then they should email jdocter-loeb20@gds.org
If they have a printer of their own then they want to use it to print the shields, have them fill out this form. 
If they have connections to an institution (like a school) and would like to help us get access to the printers and filament inside, then they should email escarrow21@gds.org
If they have any overhead projector transparency sheets, PETG or Polycarbonate Plastic Sheets, access to a laser cutter, filament, or old printers they want to donate, they should fill out this form. 
If the are interested in supporting us financially, then they should check out our donation registry (it’s for a marriage between “3D-Printing Face Shields” & “Other Medical Gear For Those Who Protect Us (DC Area)”)
If they are willing to help pickup and deliver face shields, then they should fill out this form.

Do you have lessons for others?

Here’s an unrelated rant instead 🙂
There are a lot of people trying to rise to the occasion and help those in need. That’s amazing, and all the facebook posts, teddy bears in windows, and the flyers around the city prove that we can come together in times of crisis. That said, even though it is all based on good intentions, it is often chaotic. I’ve heard stories of hospitals being overwhelmed by calls from 3D printers wanting to help out.
With limited resources and high stress levels it is crucial that we adapt the awareness that comes with social distancing to our day-to-day lives.
 I’ve found that a small portion of people (including myself at times) volunteering with all these organizations get so focused on the idea of helping others rather than actually helping them. Some people have a myopic approach to service which feeds off of public attention and that feel-good-feeling.

What is working right?

The printers. We’ve expanded so fast (some might say too fast).

Have there been missteps and/or right choices/actions for others to learn from?

Build a team from the get go. One day I was doing almost no work, and then the next I was up until 1. Since then, I’ve been working anytime I don’t have class from 9am-11pm with very minimal breaks. The past few days have been just as long, but much less stressful because I’ve found people who have taken some of the burden off of me.
Here is the forwarded email that alerted me to this group’s efforts:
These materials will help us create thousands of face shields for first responders. DC could be like NYC later this month. While we have 75 3D printers running to pump out these shields, and have donated close to 500 shields at this time, we are going to run out of filament, elastic, and (especially) the shield part of the face shield. Please help in whatever way you can (and please share it if you are willing).

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