WEST HARTFORD — Nine members of the College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture at the University of Hartford saw a problem and came together to help solve it. There is a shortage of PPE (personal protection equipment) for health care workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To help address the shortage and in a two-week time span, they joined forces; selected and modified a design; gathered and ordered materials; picked up 3D printers from campus; and printed, assembled, and completed for delivery 100 highly coveted face covers that will be distributed to local health professionals, according to an email from the University.
The project began as a groundswell. Several CETA faculty, staff, and students read online about how much-needed face covers can be printed on 3D printers. The group reached out to CETA Dean Hisham Alnajjar asking to use CETA’s 3D printers to make face covers for health care workers who do not have an adequate supply. Alnajjar readily agreed. "This is the least we can do to support the health care professionals putting their lives at risk on the front lines,” he said. “We are extremely grateful for their sacrifices and extend thanks on behalf of all of us at the University of Hartford."
Twelve 3D printers were picked up individually April 3 to 5 on a staggered schedule to maintain social distancing. These 12 printers and four personal printers were used to print sets of parts that take between three and four hours to print.
The group used an open-source face cover design created by Adafruit Industries. Its license allows modification, so Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering Takafumi Asaki and Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Edward Diehl were able to modify the design to work well with the various CETA and personal 3D printers.
Printing of the 100 face covers took place in individual homes from April 6 to 12. On April 12, Asaki parked for four hours at Elizabeth Park in Hartford with a box outside his car so others who printed face covers could drop off individual plastic bags that contained the sets they had made. At his home, Asaki added the instructions that were designed by Julie Chen, adjunct professor of architecture and woodshop and digital fabrication lab manager, and the materials needed for assembly to each bag and packed them for delivery.
In addition to professors Asaki, Chen, and Diehl, others who worked on this project include Mary (Cater) Arico, assistant professor of biomedical engineering; Claudio Campana, applied assistant professor of mechanical engineering; Enrico Obst, visiting assistant professor of mechanical engineering; Stephen Smith, adjunct professor of architecture; and Kiwon Sohn, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. Allison Poulin, office coordinator provided materials support.
Smith summarized why the group came together to do this project saying, “As architects, engineers, and designers, it is our professional and ethical responsibility to help in a time of need such as this. There are many ways beyond the built environment in which our skills and tools can contribute to the common good. It is vital for our students to see the importance of public service and the impacts that can be made outside the classroom.”