Photo & Video Feature: GRC answers the call for PPE
By Peter Gudmunson, Joseph Becker, and Philip Denman, May 11, 2020
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the largest challenges hospitals have faced is maintaining an adequate supply of personal protective equipment, or PPE. The need was so dire that during an April 1 press conference (and in a follow-up tweet), Gov. Jay Inslee turned to local manufacturers, asking that all Washingtonians join the fight.
“We believe that there is the best talent in the world making things and manufactured products here in the state of Washington,” Inslee said. “I’m here today to ask all businesspeople, all leaders, all skilled workers, to ask themselves if they can join this effort… If you are a manufacturer or designer, please don’t feel limited if you can’t make the whole enchilada – even if you can just make one part of something, that would help."
Washingtonians answered the call, including Green River’s Machining and Manufacturing department, which recently completed it’s first order of 100 face shields for local medical professionals.
According to Bradley Chinn, instructor, Manufacturing Technology, the idea of converting the College’s additive manufacturing lab into a PPE production facility began when friends, students and colleagues reached out asking about the department’s capabilities.
“It just so happened that we had this NSF grant for additive manufacturing or advanced manufacturing, and we had just set up this actual print lab,” Chinn explained. “All the machines that you've seen or see here are part of the program that we've been doing, and it just worked out that around the world—from Europe to Asia to all the way over here—they've been producing and creating PPE with 3D printing in this time-period for the workers that are dealing with the COVID-19.”
The machines, commonly referred to as 3D printers, utilize a method called Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) to melt plastic and print it in a pre-determined shape layer-by-layer. While the process takes about an hour per face shield, the team was surprised by the number of shields they were able to produce.
“Our original estimate for this was we could do anywhere between 10 and 30 a day, but on our first two days here, we actually found that we were getting closer to 50 a day when we were actually here on our regular days.”
Once printed, the face shields are packaged and stored in a sterile environment for three days (the amount of time of which the virus can live on plastic surfaces) before being made available to medical officials.
To date, the Machining and Manufacturing department’s efforts have resulted in the construction of more than 500 face shields.