When Aaron Westbrook read about people using 3D printers to produce plastic face shields to protect health-care professionals on the front lines of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, he had a familiar feeling.
“It reminded me of when I made my first arm,” the 20-year-old Columbus resident said.
Westbrook created an upper-limb prosthetic device in 2015 when he was a 15-year-old New Albany High School student; he used recycled plastic and the high school’s 3D printer.
His interest in 3D-printed prosthetic devices made from eco-friendly material led him to found Form5 Prosthetics Inc., a nonprofit organization for which he serves as CEO and still makes a variety of 3D-printed equipment, including prosthetic devices.
But after the COVID-19 coronavirus arrived in Ohio, Form5 has added personal-protective equipment – the 3D-printed face shields – to its specialties.
“We have an incredible team that’s very passionate and highly skilled,” Westbrook said.
Westbrook said his office at 735 Cross Pointe Road in Columbus is printing about 30 shields a day.
Form5 also has reached out to other local organizations with 3D printers, such as a New Albany-Plain Local School District robotics team called the Antidote, for help.
Westbrook said he wants Form5 to produce 10,000 shields.
Because the design requires a type of plastic that cannot be sourced from recycled materials, Form5 is working with philanthropic organizations to secure donations necessary to produce the shields, Westbrook said.
Form5’s 3D-printed reusable visor can be paired with a disposable, single-use shield, he said.
Westbrook said Form5 has shared its prototype, including with OhioHealth and the Ohio State University’s James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.
“We’re really targeting everybody,” he said.
Some organizations have responded.
Form5 will donate 50 to 75 shields to Knox Community Hospital in Mount Vernon, Westbrook said.
He said Form5 would provide kits, including a 3D-printed visor, a disposable shield that connects to the visor and a cord to secure the visor to the wearer’s head.
Lindsey Austin, who works as a design engineer for an automotive company and volunteers with Form5 as a design engineer, said the nonprofit worked for a week to design a prototype after looking at various open-source designs.
With feedback from a surgeon and an engineer on Form5’s board of directors, the organization came up with a shield that creates a physical fluid barrier between people, providing protection from sneezing and coughing, Austin said.
“It was a very simple switch for us,” she said.