BRISTOL, Tenn. (WJHL) — In the effort to help supply critical personal protective equipment (PPE) to health care providers on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, members of King University’s Digital Media Art & Design (DMAD) department are putting their knowhow and resources to work in a new and innovative way.
Shortages of gloves, face masks, gowns, and more have made headlines over the past several weeks. The situation is particularly dangerous for medical providers, who are being exposed to the virus daily. In response, grassroots networks of organizations have stepped in to help support the supply chain, forming alliances not typically associated with the health care industry.
One such partnership is between King University’s DMAD department and MatterHackers, an online company that sells 3D printing supplies. The company recently created a COVID-19 Maker Response Hub that connects hospitals and government agencies needing PPE with digital fabricators — like King — that can help produce the needed components.
As a result, King’s 3D printer, typically used for student projects at this time of the year, is now producing the headbands needed to help assemble protective face shields for doctors and nurses.
“Once we saw what was happening, we signed up to be able to pitch in,” said Joe Strickland, chair of DMAD at King. “Someone uploaded the design, we had the needed printer, we got the message of ‘hey, we’re calling you up,’ and now we’re printing around the clock.”
Once the initial order of 45 headbands is complete, Strickland will sanitize them, seal them in a plastic container, and ship them to the next partner on the list for assembly with the face shield. The end product is approved by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for medical use — and is reusable, a critical factor at this moment.
Strickland said it feels good to be able to assist in a time when so much of the world has been upended by the pandemic.
“We’re just so glad we have the materials and the opportunity to help out,” Strickland said. “MatterHackers is doing the most difficult part of this, combining designers and makers with people who have the supplies. It’s probably a nightmare, but they are doing it, and we believe helping the health care professionals on the front lines is a very worthwhile use of our time and resources.”
Those with 3D printing capabilities can visit the MatterHackers Maker Response Hub at HTTPS://WWW.MATTERHACKERS.COM/COVID-19 to see how they can help, Strickland said.
King has transitioned its classes to an online format for the remainder of the spring semester, with DMAD following suit — the group’s annual Spring Showcase, which usually occupies a gallery on campus, is now scheduled for a virtual launch on Thursday, April 16, at 10:30 a.m.
“With so much of the world being disrupted right now, we wanted to hold the spring competition as we normally do, and really take the time to celebrate our students and applaud their work,” Strickland said. “This way, a much larger audience can explore the gallery and enjoy our students’ creativity.”