A Beavercreek aerospace defense contractor is quickly producing face shields and open-sourcing the design so do-it-yourself’ers can make their own.
MRL Medical, an offshoot of Material Resources LLC, quickly designed a prototype face shield on a recent Sunday evening. By Monday morning, about a week ago, the first prototype was manufactured and revealed to company employees.
Dr. Ayman Salem, MRL chief executive, believes a face shield offers several distinct advantages compared to face masks. Adjustable shields allow easier breathing and speaking, he said. And they prevent those wearing them from touching their faces, a definite problem in the era of COVID-19.
“We are wearing them right now at our company,” Salem said in an interview Monday morning. “This is not a concept. This is manufactured, and it’s ready to go out of the door.”
The plan, in fact, is to have about 100 of the face shields ready to go by the end of the day Monday and to have 3,000 by week’s end, he added.
“It’s a barrier that allows you to speak and breathe easily,” Salem said.
The biggest hurdle so far has been sourcing transparent material for the face shield’s visors, Salem said. The company has been able to secure enough of the material thus far to begin production, however.
The needed visor sheets must be thin — ten thousandths of an inch (0.010 inches).
About seven of the company’s approximately 30 employees are working on the project.
But the idea is to have not just MRL staff working on the shields. The design is available for anyone to examine and replicate.
Face shields are effective only if built and worn correctly. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends face shields that cover the entire front of the face (extending to the chin or below), covering also the sides of the face with no face mask.
Open-source files and more information can be found at the firm’s web site, http://mrlmedical.com. The shields can be made mostly with common manufacturing and workplace tools, such as scissors and hole-punchers.
“This is the drastic concept that we pushed — distributed manufacturing,” Salem said. “We allow people, if they want to do it in their offices or their homes, they can do it. We open-source the files for anybody to do it.”
Most of the materials can be found at hardware stores which remain open, he said.
Although MRL is a 3-D printing company, project leaders specifically chose not to use additive manufacturing to make the shields, making the design accessible to a greater number of end-users, Salem said.
“It allows anybody who wants to make one to make it — or to make a thousand,” he said.
He could not say Monday how many of the files have been downloaded yet. There has been no marketing of the idea so far. “But we will be keeping track of that,” Salem said.
The shields can be worn not only by health care workers, but grocery store employees and workers in any sensitive environments Salem said.
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