26 Mar UW Lab Engineers Made a DIY Face Shield. Now It’s Helping Doctors
Early last week, Lennon Rodgers, director of the Engineering Design Innovation Lab at University of Wisconsin-Madison, got an urgent email from the university’s hospital. Could his lab make 1,000 face shields to protect staff testing and treating Covid-19 patients? The hospital’s usual suppliers were out of stock, due to the spike in demand prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.
After putting his kids to bed, Rodgers went to Home Depot and a local craft store and grabbed supplies, including transparent plastic and a couple of foam mannequin heads. Then he made a hasty prototype at the UW maker space by adapting a construction visor and presented it to his wife, an anesthesiologist. “I was really proud of it, but she put it on and said ‘This is way too heavy,’” Rodgers recalls.
Undeterred, Rodgers devised several lighter prototypes with two friends: Jesse Darley, a mechanical engineer at design firm Delve, and Brian Ellison, business development manager at manufacturer Midwest Prototyping. Rodgers’ wife provided more feedback, and talked the group through infection-control videos showing how to put on and remove face shields.
Last Thursday, the hospital approved the prototype. Rodgers posted the design online for others to use and the ad hoc collective began to ramp up production. They have since sent more than than 1,000 face shields to the UW Hospital. Ford has picked up the open source design, and expects to produce more than 75,000 this week at subsidiary Troy Design and Manufacturing in Plymouth, Michigan. The company plans to send the initial run to Detroit area hospitals.