UTA FabLab Rallies to Make Face Shields, Masks for Local Community
By UTA Libraries Communications
Posted on April 17, 2020, April 17, 2020

UTA student making mask. Courtesy: Danny Grigg, UTA Libraries 

The University of Texas at Arlington Libraries is doing its part to combat the novel coronavirus by using its FabLab facilities to create face shields and masks for the local community.

The face shields will be distributed to John Peter Smith (JPS) Hospital in Fort Worth while the face masks will be distributed to Libraries staff. Additional masks will also be available to UTA students and faculty.

“Since this crisis hit campus, UTA Libraries has felt the call to go above and beyond to serve our community,” said Rebecca Bichel, dean of UTA Libraries. “Katie Musick Peery has been instrumental in not only identifying what the FabLab can do, but putting plans into action that serve our healthcare heroes and keep our staff and students safe. We are proud of the work she and her team have done and continue to do.”

Peery, director of the FabLab. credits the maker movement—and its relationship with local communities—for the rapid response to the personal protective equipment (PPE) shortage related to COVID-19.

“As soon as cities across the nation began experiencing shortages of PPE, makerspaces stepped in to help.” Peery said. “Our team reviewed different face shield models that were being shared online, I made calls to local hospitals to see if there was a need locally, and we got our printers running.”

Once the NIH 3D Print Exchange began clinically reviewing and approving face shield designs for hospital use, Peery says those in the FabLab felt even more confident that what they were making could be an asset to UTA’s local health care providers.

The face shields are made from a 3D-printed visor, foam tape (to provide padding against the forehead), an elastic band, and a clear acetate sheet.

In addition to the face shields, the FabLab has also been making handsewn face masks. Mia Perkins, a biochemistry and MBA dual-degree graduate student and FabLab associate, has been crucial to the production of the face masks. She did research on the most beneficial designs and has split her time working in the lab and at home. Perkins sees the work as an extension of the FabLab’s ideals.

“I think it's our duty to help since we are both adequately equipped and eager to help,” Perkins said. “Part of the lab's motto is to be of service to our UTA community and the general public, so this is in line with our values.”

For Perkins, this project is also personal.

“I very recently lost my grandmother to ALS and she was the first person who taught me to sew,” Perkins said. “I think she'd be very proud of me for using my skills to help others because it’s what she always did.”

Helping others is a driving force for Peery, too.

“We want to keep our UTA community as safe as possible, especially our Libraries staff who are still working on site to meet the critical needs of our students,” Peery said. “We’re hopeful that the design we’re using—which provides more coverage over the nose and sides of the mouth, a closer fit to the face by using a moldable wire along the bridge of the nose, and a pocket for an additional filtering material—will provide the best home-made protection possible.”

To Peery, stepping up to produce PPE was a no-brainer.

“If we have the means and opportunity to help our community, we should do so, especially during such extenuating circumstances as we are experiencing now,” Peery said. “The equipment in the FabLab allows us to produce PPE that is much more reliable and well-crafted than something that is quickly pieced together, and saves our healthcare workers time.”

UT Arlington, Coronavirus
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