The 12V Community Pitches In To Fabricate Face Shields
When it comes to PPE (personal protective equipment) during the COVID-19 outbreak, the three elements that hospitals are looking for the most are N95 masks, gowns, and face shields. Gowns and masks cannot be easily fabricated by those in the car world, but face shields are made from clear thermoplastics. This is the same material the automotive customization community has been working with for years. We have all seen works of art out of acrylic, Lexan or Plexiglass that came from the router table of skilled artisans for badass car installations. With the advent of 3D printing and laser CNC machining, these substances can be cut to take installations to the next level. At this moment, amplifier racks and subwoofer boxes are on hold. But thermoplastics can also be fabricated into face shields to help save lives.
In mid-March, Jeremy Katz and Evan Collins of JK Automotive Designs in Stoneham, Mass., started a project to help deliver face shields to hospitals that needed them most. Katz had seen a 3D-printable design for a face shield frame on Facebook. He wanted to help the medical and emergency staff around Boston, so he downloaded the file and set his printer to work. Just as the print started, he could not help but notice the task would take several hours to complete. Jeremy wanted to make as many shields as possible, but he became frustrated with the thought of the frame taking hours to print. He worked with Evan to design a new shield frame that could be built faster. After a few revisions, they had a design that could be cut on their CNC laser in a few minutes.
Fast forward several weeks, and now, Katz’s and Collins’ design has spearheaded a movement across the North American 12V industry. More than a dozen retailers have stepped up to cut shields, assemble the frames, and deliver them to hospitals. Several mobile electronics manufacturers have also offered to help to cover the cost of materials and shipping. So far, less than a month into the project, more than 50,000 shields have been built and are in the hands of doctors, nurses, police offices, EMTs and firefighters everywhere from Alaska to Boston. JK Automotive Designs has a GoFundMe campaign running to help cover the cost of materials.
By mid-April, Katz was ordering another 500 sheets of clear PETG plastic. He said this was enough to make more than 29,000 shields. Katz also stocked up on an impressive 45,000 yards of elastic, which is good for another 110,000 shields. He has enough foam for 50,000 shields. To make things move even smoother, the original shield template has been modified with input from car audio fabricator Jeremy Carlson at Avant Garde Design to further streamline production. While it once took over an hour to 3D print a single shield, JK Automotive is coordinating the production of thousands of shields per day.
And other retailers have jumped on board. For example, John Schwartz, the owner of Perfectionist Auto Sound in Anchorage, has a strong social media following. He was responsible for rallying other retailers into helping the cause. Schwartz’s store, Perfectionist Auto Sound, is still open, taking care of essential automotive and safety needs. While the Perfectionist Auto Sound crew is working on vehicles, Schwartz is working to cut and assemble 1,000 masks by hand. He does not have the luxury of a CNC laser, but his router table is enough for reasonably rapid fabrication. Schwartz is trimming each face by hand on the shop's bench-mounted router.
Supplying Intubation Boxes
Another need is for intubation boxes. This clear plastic housing protects medical staff while they are helping patients who have severe trouble breathing. Katz and Collins have created a design that works with the fabrication equipment they have. Although it is simple in design, doctors are impressed with its function.
Katz commented on the success of the charitable program. “It just feels right,” Katz said in an interview with CNN. “We have the skillset to do it, and the tooling. So why not try to make a little bit of difference until all the big guys come along and flood the hospitals with the shields they need right now? We’ve seen grown men cry. They’re appreciative because there's none around. I’ve had emails and Facebook requests from nurses across the country begging for one of them because they’re afraid to go to work.” There are dozens of amazing shops around North America making shields. If you can spare even a few dollars, see if a mobile enhancement retailer near you is participating and consider making a small donation.
We thoroughly salute our mobile electronics retailers and hope that everyone is doing their best to stay safe during this unprecedented time. https://www.gofundme.com/f/ppe-for-covid19-frontline-workers