Purdue University says teams at the school have produced more than 25,000 pieces of personal protective equipment since the middle of March, when the state went into lockdown mode due to COVID-19. Much of the PPE are protective face masks, produced with materials donated by Minnesota-based 3M Co. (NYSE: MMM).
The university said the quarantine made it difficult to find enough raw materials to produce the protective gear. However, Purdue alumni working at 3M helped source the products needed for face shields.
“We manufacture a lot of polyester substrate for our window films. This transparent material is perfect for face shields and other similar items; all we had to do was cut it into 9.5-inch rolls, said Jeffrey Kehoe, lean value stream engineer, and a 2010 Purdue graduate in chemical engineering. “We ended up sending Purdue about 17,000 square yards of this material.”
Once the materials arrived in West Lafayette, a team at Purdue’s Birck Nanotechnology Center began production. The rolls of clear film are fed through a laser-cutting apparatus, which perforates the shape of a face shield.
“I had already built a roll-to-roll machine in a cleanroom at Birck. So, when the pandemic hit, our team decided we had to do something to help,” said Mukerrem Cakmak, Purdue’s Reilly Professor of Materials and Mechanical Engineering.
At the same time, another team at Purdue is using a 3D printer to produce eyeglass frames and other components to work with the plastic face shields.
Purdue said the assembled pieces are being sent to health care facilities throughout the state.
Elsewhere on campus, a Purdue team of nearly 40 faculty and staff members are 3D-printing eyeglass frames and other components necessary to complete the PPE. Once assembled, the finished pieces are freely distributed to health care facilities throughout Indiana
Cakmak said the volunteers can produce 4,000 face shields a day.