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VERIFY: Can 3D Printers help during this crisis? These volunteers say yes

A viewer asked the Verify Team whether 3D printers could be used to print face shields amid the pandemic. The answer is yes, and 3D printers have been busy.

WASHINGTON — Question: 

Can 3D printers be used to create face shields for doctors and nurses on the front lines? 

Answer:

Yes. While the effectiveness of 3D-printed surgical masks is debated, there is little doubt that 3D-printed face shields can be a huge help for those on the front-lines. People throughout the DMV are taking action to print these shields. 

Source:

3D printing Volunteers: (Eric Bubar, Eric Malani, Phillip Bui, Madison Bondoc, Alicia Cohen, Hobie Cohen)

Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center

Process:

During this pandemic, people across the globe are looking for ways to give back and help those on the front-lines. With the severe shortages of face masks and face shields, some have turned to 3D printing. 

A Verify Team viewer sent in an email, asking about this topic. 

"I saw something saying 3D printers can be used to make masks for healthcare workers and first responders," she said. 

This viewer wanted to know if locals were able to step up and help through 3D printing. To find out, the Verify Team spoke with a group of four volunteers from e-NABLE, a community group that harnesses 3D-Printing technology to make a positive impact on the world. 

Typically e-NABLE focuses on 3D-printed hands for those in need, but amid this crisis, many volunteers have started printing face shields instead. These volunteers have already distributed more than 850 face shields. 

"It's fantastic," Eric Bubar, one of the volunteers with the group, said. 

Bubar is a professor at Marymount University, and recruited many of his students and alumni to join him in volunteering. He said these shields have been distributed both locally and to hard-hit areas like New York City. 

"Just to get some of the messages I'm getting form people who are using this," he said. "People are in tears. One of the doctors in New York City said these are better than gold up here."

The Verify Team also spoke with a Gaithersburg couple printing these masks on their own. Alicia and Hobie Cohen have just one 3D printer, but they are putting it to good use. They've partnered with seven other locals, and together have delivered 100 face shields so far. The couple's goal is to generate 2,650 face shields for the Holy Cross Hospital

"We just want to help," the couple wrote in an email to the Verify Team. "COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on so many families, businesses, etc." 

Credit: Alicia Cohen
Alicia and Hobie Cohen have started printing face shields from their Gaithersburg home

Madison Bondoc, the chapter leader of e-NABLE D.C., said she's been posting about her efforts on social media, and has watched as the support has poured in. 

"It's giving people hope," she said. "And just showing them that there’s still good things happening in the world."

Another volunteer, Eric Malani is currently in his senior year at Marymount University, studying biology. As a volunteer EMT with Fairfax County Fire and Rescue, he said he's seen how important this PPE can be. 

"I'm proud to use my knowledge in 3D printing," he said. "To provide much needed PPE to those on the front lines battling COVID-19."

The effort has also brought in Marymount University alumni like Phillip Bui, who graduated in 2019. Bui said he has spent years 'tinkering' with 3D printers, and was thrilled that he could put his skill-set to use, during this pandemic. 

"I want the world to know that 3D printing can make change positively for the world," he said. 

The shields have been in high demand, since PPE has been hard to find, nationwide. Many doctors and nurses have been forced to re-use surgical masks, and these shields can prevent them from being soiled and destroyed. Many hospitals are urging people to focus on shields for this reason. 

Adventist Hospital told the Verify Team that they are "not yet taking donations" of cloth or hand-sewn masks. However, they are "accepting 3D-printed face shields from individuals, groups and businesses."

Bubar said that he's heard the term "hero" tossed around by doctors on the front line. However, he does not think these volunteers are heroes.

"I think the doctors are the heroes," he said. "I think of us more as -- if you’ve ever seen the Spiderman movie -- we're just the guy in the chair that’s kind of supporting the heroes. Maybe they're the batman. And we're the Robin and Batgirl to their batman. We're the Alfreds. They're the Batmans." 

Both the e-NABLE group and the Gaithersburg couple are looking for donations, to support the production of these face shields. They've both created GoFundMe accounts, which can be found at the following links: 

- e-NABLE GoFundMe: https://bit.ly/3aVwN2n

- Gaithersburg GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/jzbb8-face-shields-for-hospitals

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