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At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Iowa City Fab Lab’s director, Kirk Cheyney, recognized the impending shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical staff as something companies and organizations would need to address locally. The Iowa City Fab Lab is a fabrication laboratory where anyone in the community can build, create, or invent using the organization's tools and equipment through a membership program. Major tools include a table saw, CNC router, sewing machines, 3D printers, soldering irons, laser cutters/engravers, large format printer, and vinyl cutter.
With the knowledge and equipment necessary, Cheyney decided the Fab Lab would design and produce face shields to supply local medical workers. The initial challenge was sourcing the materials needed to produce the shields. Materials were ordered but would not arrive for a few weeks. To source material immediately, Cheyney reached out to Iowa City Landfill staff looking for polyurethane foam material in the community, and they referred him to the local Resource Specialist with the Iowa Waste Exchange.
Foam material is used in the top, inner portion of the face shield that rests on a person’s face. The foam strip provides space between the person’s face and shield and makes it more comfortable to wear for long periods of time. Since the Iowa Waste Exchange works with businesses throughout Johnson County, the local Resource Specialist knew a local production facility had large amounts of clean polyurethane foam material from packaging. The company and the Fab Lab were connected within a day, and the Fab Lab was able to get material within two days to start the design and production process.
Completed masks have been donated to the Johnson County Ambulance Service, Department of Corrections Division 6, Iowa City Hospice, fifteen long-term care facilities, and dentist offices. The Fab Lab plans to produce a total of 4,000 shields and donate them to facilities and medical workers, as needed.
For more information from the Iowa City Fab Lab, visit this post from their website about the design and production process. Visit Iowa Waste Exchange for more information.