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Victory Gardens in the 21st Century: How 3D Printing May Save Lives [Video]

Some are calling this movement the new victory gardens. As part of the COVID-19 pandemic response, there is a world-wide effort through 3D printing that now, thanks to the painstaking work of Lexington School Art teacher Sarah Heller and community partners, has turned local, and 3D printed face shields are already making a difference.

This is what a twenty-first century “victory garden” looks like. Sarah Heller, an art teacher at The Lexington School, sits at her dining room table, her computer open to online chat rooms, while the school’s Makerbot Replicator+ buzzes busily behind her, printing parts from thermoplastic filament for medical face shields.

Sarah is a member of a vast global network of makers working around the clock to provide supplies for keeping our health professionals safe during this COVID-19 pandemic.

3D Printing Worldwide

A member of the medical community approached Heller a week ago about generating a prototype for a medical face shield. Sarah immediately researched and found open source files online. Landing on Prusa 3D, Sarah got to work making it work for a number of nurses and health care professionals in her immediate community.

A big communal effort to get it going and getting it right.

“The Prusa design is great,” says Heller, “but because it’s a European company, the headpiece is designed for a plastic face shield used from different size of paper (A4) than the material we use here in the U.S. The same is true in other parts of the world, different head sizes, materials, etc. so the thing I have found so incredible is how we are all tweaking the designs to work for our test audience and then sharing our ideas with the rest of the world as well.”

The materials include thermoplastic filament for printing the head and chin pieces and clear overhead projector film sheets that Heller hole punches and attaches and ties using elastic strips. (See video for specific instructions).

“The thing about prototyping is the process of design, thinking of your audience, and have them test it,” Heller explains. “It takes a lot of time to tweak, take suggestions, and build a prototype. We have a good one now, so next, we look for enough 3D printers to really crank them out. We are reaching out to community partners right now who are interested in helping.” 

Several nurses in the TLS community, including The Lexington School’s Nurse Kristin, are using the face shields, and today the prototype will make its way to local Lexington hospitals to begin the approval process for a much larger group.

This movement will take many “gardeners.”

The Lexington School is working to partner with local organizations to generate more 3D printed face shields. If you are interested in the design, contact Sarah Heller via email.

Sarah is sharing her modifications as opensource with the rest of the world as well. People are contacting her from as far as India asking for access to her design, which she quickly shares. She says, “Everybody wants to get involved. Finding the right STL file–once you know something works you blast it out there and share it.”

Sarah and so many others worldwide are digging away to plant a twenty-first-century victory garden, and together they are making a difference that just may save lives.   


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