University of Memphis 3D-printing face-shield frames 24 hours a day to donate to Le Bonheur, State of Tennessee hospitals

April 1, 2020 - The University of Memphis is fabricating face-shield frames using its 3D printers 24 hours a day in its state-of-the-art Metal Additive Manufacturing Lab at Herff College of Engineering to provide to hospitals in the State of Tennessee, including Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, to aid in combating COVID-19.

Dr. Ebrahim Asadi, the lab’s director and assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering, and staff have delivered 135 3D-printed face-shield frames, which is equivalent to more than 2,000 face-shields that are currently used.

Eighty-three frames, which were driven by Asadi to the Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Jackson on Tuesday, will be delivered to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA). All hospitals and clinics in need of these emergency PPEs will need to contact their local emergency management agencies. TEMA will receive those requests from local emergency management agencies and distribute PPEs to those local agencies as needed.

 Asadi delivered 52 frames to Le Bonheur last Friday.

 “This is a very special task to me that I can help the health care professionals who are fighting this pandemic on the front line,” said Asadi. “This is one of the moments that you would say to yourself you should do something to help. I am sure that many people feel that way, and I was lucky there was something that I could do in addition to social distancing and self-quarantine, which are equally important to keep everybody safer.”

 Le Bonheur, which currently has enough supplies for its staff, is being proactive for the future.

 “We appreciate the support of community partners like the University of Memphis during this uncertain time,” said Dr. Barry Gilmore, chief medical officer of Le Bonheur Children’s. “Their offer of help means so much to our clinical experts who are working around-the-clock to help keep kids healthy and well.”

 Using five commercial-grade 3D printers, the UofM Metal Additive Manufacturing Lab has been printing around the clock. Each printer has the capability to produce three to four frames at a time, taking two to three hours for each run.

 The first successful prototypes were completed the weekend of March 20-22. Asadi started activating as many printers as he could on campus to increase the capacity since March 23.

State-wide, universities are printing face-shields in response to a call from Mike Krause, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

 “A request from (UofM) President (M. David) Rudd’s office was forwarded to me through Dean Richard Sweigard of Herff College of Engineering,” said Asadi, who is working 12 hours daily. “They were looking for an expert to take a call from Mike Krause, who explained the mission of the Higher Ed PPE initiative he is leading to establish a network of 3D printing experts in the State of Tennessee higher education institutes to fabricate PPEs for healthcare professionals due to the COVID-19 outbreak.”

A team of five staff members/students led by Asadi have been working around the clock to contribute to the production of the frames. Other staff include Dr. Fatemeh Hejripour, staff scientist; PhD candidates Behzad Fotovvati and Michael Fitzmire; and Matthew Markham, a PhD candidate who has volunteered to work daily.

 “All of us need to do our part in supporting doctors and medical workers on the frontline of this pandemic,” said Sweigard. “I’m very proud that Herff engineers and the entire UofM community have come together so quickly to produce the face shields that will keep healthcare workers and patients safe.”

 The University of Memphis celebrated its opening of the Metal Additive Manufacturing Lab in September 2018 with a $2 million commitment for building renovations, equipment and staffing.