Bloomsburg University uses 3D printers to make masks

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BLOOMSBURG, COLUMBIA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – The shortage of personal protective equipment in the medical field during the coronavirus crisis has resulted in hospitals turning to non-traditional sources to help solve the problem.

Geisinger Health System says it had an adequate supply of PPE right from the start but it could not refuse the offer of a local university that wanted to help keep it that way.

Bloomsburg University Professor of Information and Technology Management Carolyn LaMacchia didn’t expect she and some of her students would get into the manufacturing of personal protective equipment, but these are unprecedented times.

“I know that we have a crisis and we were very excited to give back,” LaMacchia told Eyewitness News. “Our 3D printing equipment is already used to address humanitarian needs.”

Bloomsburg University’s Zeigler College of Business put two top of the line 3D printers to use to make face masks and face shields to donate to Geisinger Medical Center.

Carolyn says, “This piece of equipment is made with three parts and tough PLA.”

Finding exact materials that worked proved tricky. They determined some clear materials like mylar didn’t cut it for face screens. Dean Todd Shawver had an idea: use laminated pouches. He tested 3 mm laminate which came out too wavy. So he had another idea, putting the 5 mm through the 3 mm setting.

“Oh, of course it was a surprise,” Shawver said. “You know it was just trial and error stuff. You know so they were looking for a good solution you know for Geisinger and whatever we can do to help those front lines and those came out perfect. We were extremely happy about that.”

All total, Bloomsburg University made more than 150 clear face shields, 60 visors, and 14 three-piece face masks.

“Knowing the shortages of equipment across the country. You know if we could do our part and be able to fulfill that need in some way so they can focus their efforts in other areas I was excited about that opportunity,” Shawver said.

Besides making the donations to Geisinger, Bloomsburg University shared its manufacturing method with a Los Angeles-based hospital to help beef up its PPE stockpile.

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