3D Printing, Laser Cutters: Face Shields for COVID-19 Frontliners from Philippine Science HS Campuses

The frontliners battling the threat of COVID-19 require all the help they can get. Thanks to cutting edge technology, the Philippine Science High School — Pisay — campuses all over the country are answering the call.

Making full use of their science laboratories, the PSHS campuses are creating face shields from scratch to address the scarcity of personal protective equipment (PPE).

These provide additional protection to our frontliners — especially because the transmission of COVID-19 is primarily through respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing.

One of the face shields produced by the Philippine Science High School campuses. Photo by PSHS-SOCCSKSARGEN.

3D printing makes all of these possible. No, it doesn’t work the same way as typical paper printers in homes and offices. This technology can create real objects out of computer-aided three-dimensional designs.

If it can be imagined and designed, it can be printed to existence.

3D printer. Photo from PSHS-Bicol.

They have also been using laser cutters, a technology that uses a high-power laser to cut and slice materials. With these advancements, Pisay campuses have produced and delivered more than 3,000 face shields.

Laser cutter. Photo from PSHS-Ilocos

3D Printing

In their immediate communities, PSHS campuses have donated forty aerosol boxes, alcohol in hospitals and relief goods under their program PisAYUDA: Siyensya para sa Bayan.

But more help is needed so they turned to what they do best — science.

In Koronadal City, Engineer Kevin Daga-as leads the initiative of creating face masks via 3D printing. He explains that the process starts with a digital file of a three-dimensional model.

When this digital design is ready, the 3D printer will then be activated. Part of the preparation is the placement of the filament.

The heating element of the 3D printer melts the filament and this will gradually come out of the nozzle. Using the information from the digital file, the design is divided into thin two-dimensional cross sections. This enables the printer to determine where to put the materials.

Usually, each layer has a thickness of 0.4mm.

The melted filament will meld with the heated bed and this is where the object is formed. This process takes minutes or days, depending on the complexity of the project. When the printing is complete, it will stop on its own and the object can be removed from the heated bed.

Here is a 3D printer in action:

However, Engr. Daga-as is running low on filaments at the PSHS-SOCCSKSARGEN Region Campus. He has started producing using his own materials and 3D printer at home.

WORK FROM HOME. Engr. Kevin Daga-as hits the road to deliver the face shields he created for medical frontliners and police officers in checkpoints using his own 3D printer and supplies at home. He teaches at PSHS-SOCCSKSARGEN Region Campus.
3D printed face shield frames. Photo by PSHS-SOCCSKSARGEN Region Campus.
Face shields ready for distribution. Photo by PSHS-SOCCSKSARGEN Region Campus.
Front liners at a checkpoint in Bicol wears the protective face shields from PSHS-SOCCSKSARGEN Region Campus. (Photo from Facebook account Kevin Daga-as)
COVID-19 responders from Koronadal City receive 12 face shields from PSHS- SOCCSKSARGEN Region Campus. (Photo from Facebook account Kevin Daga-as)

Laser Cutting

The Ilocos campus of Philippine Science High School is currently using its fabrication laboratory worth P12 million to create personal protective equipment. This has been donated by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) facilitated by Grace Lapastora, DTI Provincial Head.

So far, it has created face shields for the Sto. Domingo Municipal Health Office, Magsingal Municipal Health Office, San Ildefonso Municipal Health Office, and Ilocos Sur Provincial DRMM, according to PSHS-IRC Campus Director Ronnalee Orteza.

The laser cutter forms part of the core of this laboratory. Watch how this machine operates here below:

Here is a step-by-step guide to create face shields using this technology from Engineer John Dee A. Mangoba, a Special Science Teacher III of the campus:

Prep Step1: Collect Shield materials in the form of Clear Acetate Film, PVC Sheet, or Clear Folders
Prep Step 1.1: If the available material is Clear Folder, use a cutter to remove the paper back cover.
Prep Step 1.1: If the available material is Clear Folder, use a cutter to remove the paper back cover.
Prep Step 1.2: Output shield after cutting off the paper back.
Prep Step 2: Prepare the acrylic sheets, either 3mm, 4.5mm or 6mm in thickness.
Step 1: Designing and Operations Handling through Thunder Laser Software
Step 1: Design and Operations Handling through Thunder Laser Software
Step 2: Create Multiple Copies by Batch (36pcs) for Machine and Material Efficiency
Step 3: Design of Laser Cut Holes for the PVC or Acetate Sheets, Preferably Long Size
Step 3.1: Output of Using the Laser Cutter to Create Holes in the Shield Material
Step 4: Running the Program for the 36-Frame Batch for 46.51 Minutes
Step 5: Sample Run in the Machine While Completing the Batch
Step 6: Output Example for the Shield Frame
Gathering the finished face shield frames. Photo by PSHS-IRC.
Preparing the frames for the shield component. Photo by PSHS-IRC.

Nationwide Bayanihan

PSHS-Bicol Region Campus (BRC) has produced the most number of face shields with 1,065. The campus distributed these to Goa Infirmary, Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital, Bicol Medical Center, and Camarines Sur Provincial Health Office.

FRONTLINERS IN ACTION. The surgeons of Bicol Medical Center use the face shields created in the science laboratory of Philippine Science High School Bicol Region Campus. (Photo by Lorvi Pagorogon)

The Bicol campus of Pisay gives us a walk-through of their efficient production of face shields. Here is a time lapse of their 3D printer at work below:

Afterwards, they manually assemble the frames and the shield in their laboratory:

“For now, we are still looking for lab supplies to continue producing PPEs. We are thankful to various donors for helping us find suppliers and monetary pledges,” said Lorvi Pagorogon, Campus Director of PSHS-Bicol Region Campus.

In Cebu, the Philippine Science High School Central Visayas Campus donated face shields to frontline health workers in Isidro C. Kintanar Memorial Hospital and Argao Rural Health Unit.

“Considering that none of the doctors in Argao Hospital in Cebu have PPE, we started designing and mass printing upon the approval Campus Director Rachel Luz Rica,” said Benito A. Baje, Physics Unit Coordinator and Makerspace in-charge at PSHS-CVC.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Faculty and non-academic staff of PSHS-Central Visayas Campus prepare the face shields and aerosol box they produced and disinfected to be delivered to hospitals in Cebu. (Photo coutesy of PSHS-CVisc)

In Davao City, PSHS-Southern Mindanao Campus (SMC) is targeting to distribute 650 face shields and 14 aerosol boxes for Southern Philippines Medical Center (the biggest public hospital in Davao City), Davao Doctors Hospital, San Pedro Hospital, and Brokenshire Hospital.

In Iloilo City, two faculty members: Harold Mediodia and Fernando Jolito, Biology and Research teachers, respectively, of PSHS-Western Visayas Campus are now working as members of the team created by the Office of the Mayor to establish a Sub-National Lab for COVID-19 testing. Both are certified biosafety officers.

Using their 3D printers and laser cutters, PSHS campuses in Cagayan Valley, Baguio City, Clark Freeport Zone, Quezon City, Batangas City, Romblon, Leyte, Butuan City, and Dipolog City have also started producing face shields.

“In no time PSHS campuses would stop producing personal protective equipment (PPEs) once they run out of supplies. We appeal to the public for donations of acetate, filament, and acrylic. If you know suppliers, please refer to us and assist us, so we can buy necessary materials to make more PPEs for our medical frontliners,” said Lilia Habacon, PSHS Executive Director.

According to Habacon, PSHS needs the following raw materials to continue creating more face shields and aerosol boxes:

  • A4 acetate sheets
  • ABS or PLA filament with 1.75 mm diameter
  • Acrylic (4mm thickness) for the laser cutter

Interested donors may contact Lilia T. Habacon through 09088952586 or lthabacon@pshs.edu.ph for proper coordination.

About the Author

Aries N. Oliveros studied Bachelor of Secondary Education, Major in English (Cum Laude) at Philippine Normal University, Manila. He was former Chief of the Curriculum and Instruction Division and school paper adviser of The Central Scholar of Philippine Science High School – Central Luzon Campus (PSHS-CLC). He works as executive assistant at the PSHS Office of the Executive Director and has written textbooks on grammar and creative nonfiction. He has a labrador named Armani and an adopted dog named Justin.

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