Oak Parkers use 3D printers to create masks for hospitals

First Responders asking for more

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By James Kay

Sports Editor

In an effort to combat supply shortages at nearby hospitals, Oak Parker Robert Parks is rallying locals who have 3D printers to create face shields for first responders. After developing one shield and showing it to a local ICU nurse, multiple hospitals are requesting Parks' group's services.

"With COVID-19 ramping up, it is really important to get as many people together who have 3D printers so we can be in a situation where supply quantity is less of a concern," said Parks. "When this gets worse, we don't want an ICU person walking into an infected patient's room and dealing in close quarters without any kind of protection."

Parks came across the design of the shield during a segment on WTTW's "Chicago Tonight" that detailed the story of an engineer who used 3D printing to create face shields for Swedish Covenant Hospital on Chicago's North Side. When the story was posted online, Parks, who owns a 3D printer, found the design the engineer made and uploaded it. He followed the instructions and created the shield (click here to see a video of the printer in action). 

Parks quickly realized the design was simple. While it took three hours to create the frame, the shield is made up of a plastic sheet that covers the user's face. The plastic is attached to the frame by three nubs that go along the front of the shield. It also contains an elastic band that is attached in the back of the shield that goes around the head of the person using it.

Once he finished the product, Parks showed it to two people he knew who work at local hospitals. He received positive feedback.

"The first time I saw it, I thought it was professionally made and offered by a vender," said a physician at Rush Oak Park Hospital who wanted to remain anonymous since the masks aren't FDA approved. "It is exactly what we need. The frame fits beautifully and the screen is very effective."

The nurse that Parks showed the shield to has used it on the job already and has colleagues who requested that she bring in more to help with supply shortages. One of the perks of Parks' shields is that they are reusable and can be washed with bleach, making them a valuable commodity for hospitals.

"I used [the shield] yesterday during a 24-hour shift, and it gives me a feeling of security when I go into a room with a COVID-19 patient," said the nurse who also requested anonymity due to the masks not being FDA approved. "I used Clorox wipes on it so that it is ready to go the next time I need it. It just makes me feel so much safer. We are going to run out of supplies, and we need these [shields] to feel safe."

Right now, Parks has connected with 25 people in Oak Park that have 3D printers and want to contribute to the cause. While he describes his 3D printer as "small," locals with bigger printers can produce the frames at a faster rate than the printer Parks owns. The goal is to print as many frames as possible so that the team can assemble the shields and distribute them to local hospitals (there are already two that are interested).

"I can't say enough about this group of people," said Parks. "I am really just a logistics grunt. The troops on the front lines battling [COVID-19] are remarkable and I have so much respect for them."

If you have a 3D printer and want to help produce face shields for local hospitals, you can contact Parks at COVID19SHIELDOP@gmail.com. 

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Reader Comments

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William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: March 30th, 2020 8:46 AM

What a genuinely uplifting story. A smart and effective grass roots response to an existential threat to the very people we count on to protect our health and well being.

Rachel Benoit  

Posted: March 29th, 2020 8:56 PM

This is amazing, thank you to those pitching in to create the shields.

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