Working Together While Staying Apart

MCHS joins grassroots effort underway to make face shields for New Jersey healthcare workers

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Much needed face shields are being made locally to help ease the shortage due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here headbands created on 3D printers await final assembly. Photo courtesy of James Hofmann and Arlene Sullivan

MORRIS COUNTY —  Morris Catholic High School Visual and Graphic Arts teacher, Arlene Sullivan has joined the grassroots team effort to use her 3D printer technology, to work with NJ high school robotics teams and collaborate with private and public sectors to use 3D printing technology to help ease face shield shortage due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Jersey currently has the second largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States.

Deadbands for medical masks

“Fate has brought us all together, says Sullivan, a 15 year veteran at MC. I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend a 3D printing workshop sponsored by MakerBot and hosted by Picatinny  a few years ago, where I met Shahram Dabri and received a 3D printer.  We have been in contact ever since for ongoing workshops.”

Shahram Dabri, STEM Manager of the Education Office at the U.S. Army Picatinny Arsenal in Dover, is reaching out to his contacts at over 400 New Jersey schools to enlist their support. Last month Picatinny Arsenal sponsored a two-day workshop for more than a dozen NJ teachers with advanced training on 3D printing and CAD, or computer-aided-design. The workshop and a MakerBot 3D printer for their students to use in school were gratis to the teachers.

Upon receiving a request for help from Shah this past Thursday, Sullivan immediately sought help to upgrade her home computer for the 3D printing task looking for help through former MC tech person, Richard Heywood, Technology Services Manager for the Somerset County Educational Services Commission and, Senior Consultant for PeggNet Computers, and her son, Jonathan Sullivan, a graduate of NJIT, EIT. Both jumped through hoops to help Sullivan make this happen, with Rich lending one of his updated laptops and Jonathan manning the installation.  Each print takes a minimum of two hours and thirty minutes.

The 3D programs for the medical mask pieces came from Jim Hoffman, STEM teacher at Newton, High School, and the coach of the Varsity Robotics Team for the past eleven years.

Jim received a request from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School student Rohan Sawhney to help make Personal Protective Equipment – specifically face shields for healthcare.

All understand the urgent need.  Sullivan’s younger brother, a doctor in Sparta and his wife both tested positive for the virus and were hospitalized. It was pretty dicey for awhile. Hofmann’s son Justin, a graduate of Newton High School and 2017 graduate of Rutgers NJMS, is currently a third year resident working on the front lines at University Hospital in Newark.

The effort, named “PPE Made in America,” has a goal of making 1,000 face shields locally using 3D printers to make the headband portion.

Hofmann leveraged his network of STEM partners and sent an email describing the project with what materials were needed and the associated costs.

The first to respond was Alex Cable, CEO of Thorlabs, Inc., a Newton-based optical equipment company. Cable said currently their priority project is UV Sterilization Chambers for possible N95 mask reuse. Cable committed his engineering staff to prototype headband samples, and then output on his company’s 3D printers, as well as assist in sourcing PETG .02 (polyethylene terephthalate glycol), a sheet of tough plastic material that completes the face shields. Thomas Sinner’s engineering team at Thorlabs will cut the large PETG sheets into smaller, more manageable sizes.

Mark Maruska and Adam Zuedima of Gravity DesignWorks in Newton volunteered to cut the smaller PETG sheets into finished face shields.

New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program CEO John Kennedy, Ph.D., also answered the call. NJMEP, a not-for-profit that works with New Jersey’s small to mid-sized manufacturers, is helping with supply chain and sourcing PETG.

David Romano of RoNetco Supermarkets, Inc., owner of eight local ShopRite grocery stores, has pledged financial support, as has Kristin Prigmore of the Prigmore Science Foundation.

Shahram Dabri, STEM Manager of the Education Office at the U.S. Army Picatinny Arsenal in Dover, NJ, is reaching out to his contacts at over 400 New Jersey schools to enlist their support. Last month Picatinny Arsenal sponsored a two-day workshop for more than a dozen NJ teachers with advanced training on 3D printing and CAD, or computer-aided-design. The workshop and a MakerBot 3D printer for their students to use in school were gratis to the teachers.

Several neighboring high schools with robotics teams and 3D printers who are normally competitors are also pitching in to help, including those from Lenape Valley, Mount Olive, Vernon and now Morris Catholic.

“I am honored to be a part of this, to be able to make a positive difference during this uncertain time,” says Sullivan

“In this crisis, it’s all hands on deck, and great to see everyone come together in the effort” Hofmann said. He added “If any business or school has spare 3D printing capacity, we could sure use your help.”