3 Engineers, 3D Printers

Dan Lentsch, Brett Arand and Chris Ulicki are three engineers who have decided to join the national effort to supply healthcare workers, EMTs, and first responders with the PPE that they desperately need.

They are part of a growing collective of innovators who have been investing in 3D printing machines and materials to print tools for those fighting on the front lines of this health crisis. Face shields are a vital element of healthcare workers’ PPE, and they’re in short supply across the world.

This need is what motivated these three engineers to 3D print face shields for the healthcare workers and first responders in Milwaukee. Brett recalled that “for friends who are nurses and first responders, we started making dozens of face shields. Then, we just kept making more and more.”

The face shields preserve the limited quantity of N95 masks from fluids and other harmful contaminants, as “some healthcare workers have to use the N95 masks for 5 days,” Chris added. His mom is an EMT in the Milwaukee Fire Department. “The shields add an extra layer of protection for healthcare workers in nursing homes, first responders, and hospital staff every time they go into a room.” These shields are reusable, and they can be used by workers numerous times.

“Healthcare workers have a hard time getting [face shields] from the hospital, so we wanted to make them and give them to the hospital directly”, said Brett. “After designs were featured on the NIH website, we had confidence in what we were building.”

Chris, Dan, and Brett started out by designing a few prototypes and getting some feedback. According to Dan, one of the prototypes was heavy and beefy. It used more materials, was more expensive to produce, and took nearly five times as long to print. They optimized their process and created a thinner, lightweight option. Now they are able to create three shields in under an hour. “We’ve made over 800 so far and should be at 1000 this week!” The printers are set to run overnight, and changed out during the day to keep up with the demand.

The face shields have been delivered to many hospitals in Milwaukee, including the VA Hospital, Aurora Sinai Medical Center, Froedtert Hospital, Columbia St.Mary’s Hospital, Aurora West Allis Medical Center, as well as the Milwaukee Fire Department. Some have also been delivered to medical centers in Kenosha, Illinois, and the PPE donation center in the Wisconsin State Fair Park.

Their goal is to continue 3D-printing these face shields until the pandemic subsides and the supply chain catches up to the national demand for these resources. In the meantime, Dan, Chris, and Brett are here to support and shield MKE.