LGS Staff Convert Homes into 3D Printing Workshops to Make Personal Protective Equipment

In response to the COVID-19, LaGuardia Studio wanted to help address the shortages of critical personal protective equipment (PPE) for NYU Langone Health staff on the front line of fighting the pandemic. This meant figuring out how to recreate the Studio set-up, including large 3D printers, at home.

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close-up of a 3d printer

Equipment: Stratasys Dimension SST 1200ES; Lulzbot Taz 6; Atom 2.5 FX; Creality Ender 5 Plus


More About the Project

"What can we do to help?"

That was the first thought that ran through the minds of everyone at NYU LaGuardia Studio (LGS). As the coronavirus swept across the globe, the team wondered how their 3D printing technology and skills could be used to fight the pandemic. The answer was complicated. Components of personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical staff could be manufactured, among other potentially important parts. However, NYU and New York had issued a “stay at home” order to help slow the rise in COVID-19 cases. The Studio, like all NYU facilities, was closed.

But even with the closures, the team figured out alternative ways to contribute. They provided guidance and expertise to others. The team advised and helped organize groups, both at NYU and across the New York-New Jersey community, working on the production of PPE parts —most notably, the plastic face shields seen on many healthcare workers. This assistance included guidance on project organization, 3D pipeline production, geometry content development, and medical safety criteria. Thanks to long-standing relationships with 3D printing vendors and NYU Langone, the team was able to facilitate direct lines of communication between the different parties.

Manufacturing PPE is not as simple as downloading a template and starting the printout. There are a number of requirements that must be met, and these may vary from one health facility to another. The use of improper (potentially even dangerous) materials and inadequate cleanliness protocols can turn a well-meaning donation into a burden for hospitals, which must sort through and discard 3D prints that are not up to standards. There is, unfortunately, no single source of guidelines for people hoping to contribute to the printing of medical equipment. This is why the existing relationship between NYU Langone and the LaGuardia Studio is so vital to the process. The team is able to communicate directly with healthcare professionals at Langone, assess their needs, and print to their exact specifications, ensuring that the effort results in useful, usable parts.

composite showing a 3d printer and ppe construction materials

1. A Stratasys printer, installed at LaGuardia Studio manager Andrew Buckland's home. 2. Once parts are printed, there's still additional work to be done before they are ready to be shipped. 3. Finished 3D printed PPE components, ready for shipment.

Creating a Remote 3D Printing Location

Sharing this knowledge with others was essential, but the LGS still felt they could do more. That’s when the close-knit collaboration between the Studio and 3D printer manufacturer Stratasys came into play. After a quick text message exchange, Stratasys arranged to loan a 3D printer for use from a remote location. In a matter of days, a Stratasys Dimension SST 1200ES printer was shipped to the home of LaGuardia Studio manager Andrew Buckland, who had the space to accommodate a 400+ pound piece of equipment and the know-how to complete assembly and get the printer running.

Once operational, Buckland began the process of printing PPE face shields and would also be able to print any other equipment NYU Langone might need. Batches of finished gear are shipped from Buckland’s home to Langone’s receiving group, where the pieces are assembled before being delivered to the hospital.

“Langone is an important client and we wanted to do whatever we could to help them, but being closed caused a huge hurdle,” explained Shelly J. Smith, assistant director of NYU LaGuardia Studio. “We’re really fortunate to have such a close partnership with Stratasys. When we told them what we wanted to do, they jumped in immediately to help the team print at home.”

a 3d printer at home

LGS team member Dhemerae Ford's home 3D printer was also used to print PPE

Collaboration and Community

Dhemerae Ford, LaGuardia Studio’s senior advanced media specialist and assistant technical lead, already had 3D printers for personal use and was able to join Buckland in printing critical parts. Ford’s home set-up includes a Lulzbot Taz 6, an Atom 2.5 FX, and a Creality Ender 5 Plus.

“I’ve been working with various groups across NYU and beyond to print face shield components for local hospitals,” explains Ford. She is currently partnering with NYC Makes PPE and MatterHackers to provide PPE for assembly in their Brooklyn location and print similar parts for NYU Langone.

Ford is also leveraging contacts from another part of her life. Ford is one-half of TheLaserGirls, along with NYU LaGuardia Co-op manager Sarah Awad. “We’ve been working in the local cosplay community to guide those who have access to 3D printers and want to help print PPE.”

To make sure both Buckland and Ford could remain in production around the clock without worrying about the availability of filament from normal distribution partners, Stratasys began manufacturing filament specifically for this collaboration with LGS and shipping it directly to the LGS team.

Said David Ackerman, Associate Vice President of NYU IT Research Technology, “We are thrilled to have the kind of relationship with Stratasys — one that has been building for years — where they would come to the aid of NYU in a time of need. Being able to print critical items for NYU Langone, without putting staff in harm’s way, will take our extremely strong relationship with Stratasys to another level.”

Everyone at the Studio is enthusiastic about what they’ve been able to accomplish, and they continue to look for additional ways to contribute and think about how they can circumvent the apparent limitation of not having access to their usual equipment. With the assistance of Stratasys and a network of dedicated 3D printing professionals, the team is hopeful that their efforts will make a positive impact on the overall safety and well-being of the NYU Langone staff on the front lines of ending the COVID-19 pandemic.