West Seattle man creates 3D-printed specialized face shields at home to protect local healthcare workers
By Cynthia Flash
When West Seattle resident Mark Leahy heard that healthcare workers were facing a PPE shortage back in February, he put his business and science knowledge and skills to work to create a design for face shields that he could manufacture from home using his 3D printer. Today he and his two daughters are running two printers fulltime, making up to 14 shields each day for Providence Mount St. Vincent nursing home to keep staff and residents safe from COVID-19.
Leahy not only improved the face shield frame design that he downloaded from the National Institutes of Health 3D Print Exchange, he also had to procure the materials. That includes scarce elastic for straps, high-clarity plastic for the shields, filament to feed the printers, and weather-stripping foam that pads the caregiver’s forehead to add comfort for daylong use. He has not only been able to create a high-quality face shield, but has also gotten the cost-per-shield below $3 each, less than what many manufactures charge.
Early in the pandemic, Providence Mount St. Vincent evaluated nearly 100 face shields that Leahy provided, then requested 850 to use internally and to share with other Providence skilled nursing facilities - Providence Marianwood in Issaquah and Mother Joseph Care Center in Olympia. Leahy has delivered 450 toward that goal and hopes to finish the rest by early October.
“I was curious to see how their response would be to the NIH design and I kept asking, `are there any ways to improve it?’” Leahy said. “Everyone says they’re much more comfortable than off-the-shelf face shields. One hundred per week or so isn’t mass production, but I’m happy to provide them with a face shield that the staff prefers.”
The shields are not only comfortable, they are literally saving lives.
“Mark’s quality and refined design is better than any others we have tried. The shields are making a huge difference,” said Molly Swain, executive director of the Providence Mount St. Vincent Foundation. “Early on we couldn’t access enough and they were poor quality. We know that the virus enters a community such as ours through our caregivers. Masking was initially where we started but adding the shields is now doing an excellent job of preventing the spread.”
Terri Goodwin, RN and the Mount’s infection preventionist, said, “The shields allow staff to complete their assessment and do their work with clear vision (prior shields would steam up, were hot and the plastic formed in such a way that staff’s vision for fine details was affected). The new shields protect staff eyes and - with an N-95 mask - seem to be more effective and patients can see staff expressions and eyes. We are very fortunate that Mark reached out and wanted to positively impact our work and dealing with this epidemic.”
Leahy is willing to teach students or others who have access to 3D machines how they too can make shields and help the healthcare facilities in their communities. “I hope this gets kids interested in 3D printing and helping those in need,” he said. “Yes, 3D printing requires some patience, but it is quite a useful tool. I’ve made several brackets, adapters, jigs, tons of useful stuff, throughout our house. Educators in math, science and art can use them in many successful ways. The technology isn’t just for large corporations anymore.”
How awesome for Mark to provide the face shields for PMSV!!!
Maybe Westside News can work with Mark to write an article about his willingness to teach people with 3D printers how to make the shields to attract more people willing to make them. I'm sure there are lots of local healthcare, childcare and other service people that would love to have some.
I know nothing about 3D printing, it would be fun to see how it's done. A video of how they are made would be interesting and to learn which 3D printer is needed to make the shields, approximate cost to buy the printer and supplies to make the shields.