For the past week, three student workers at Purdue University Fort Wayne have been allowed to return to the university’s 3D print lab to use their training to help medical professionals serving on the front line. Covering solo shifts to ensure appropriate social distancing, the team has been printing respiratory protection equipment attachments for Parkview Health.
The request began with a small group of engineers from L3Harris, a global aerospace and defense technologies company, who looked to team with local individuals and groups capable of quickly preparing 3D printers to meet this unique need.
Producing attachment parts for respiratory protection equipment has become more urgent in recent weeks as the nation’s need for critical care has grown.
“I love the fact that 3D printing can be used to help in such an important way,” said Noah Peterson, a junior majoring in computer engineering technology. “This is an opportunity I didn’t anticipate when I began working for the university.”
The engineers provided files containing exact specifications for the parts, and the student workers took it from there. Since starting seven days ago, the team has produced 16 hood assemblies and 12 hose connector pairs, with each taking approximately 2.5 hours to complete. Multiple printers run simultaneously during the day.
“Applying what they’ve learned at Purdue Fort Wayne to support those who care for seriously ill patients isn’t something our students were thinking about even a few weeks ago,” said Brian Spaulding, 3D print lab manager, Purdue Fort Wayne. “Identifying new ways like this to utilize the advanced technologies we have on campus is just one example of the university’s commitment to supporting the well-being of our community.”
The first batch of finished parts, which are transferred with sterile gloves to a sealed bag, are being delivered to L3Harris today, with all ultimately destined for Parkview Health. Once this need is fulfilled, the 3D print lab team at Purdue Fort Wayne will turn to producing face shields. A prototype has already been completed.