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Shielding health care workers: University of Tampa's 'Fab Lab' makes face shields

100 face shields will be donated to Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.
Credit: Emma Quintana
Emma Quintana, coordinator of UT's Fab Lab, is making face shields for Tampa health care workers.

TAMPA, Fla. — Remote learning isn't stopping one woman from helping health care workers here in the Tampa Bay area. 

Emma Quintana is the coordinator of The University of Tampa's Fab Lab, a digital fabrication lab located inside the university's R.K. Baily Art Stuidos. Once she saw a need for personal protective equipment (PPE) here in the community, she got to work making face shields. 

The protective visors wrap around your head and include a plastic shield that is long enough to cover health care workers' glasses and N95 respirators. 

Quintana has been reaching out to health care workers, testing sites and hospitals to see if the Fab Lab could assist with shortages. According to the university, many have accepted, including a COVID-19 testing site in Tampa.

The university also says Quintana plans to donate 100 face shields to Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg on Friday.

Quintana, who is also a lecturer for the College of Arts and Letters, uses 3D printers from the Fab Lab to create the shield frame and then uses a laser cutter to precisely cut the clear plastic shield. She says she was inspired by others in the global Fab Lab community who shared instructions on how to 3D print face shields. 

“There is a thriving open-source 3D printing community, and many makers around the country are working to address the PPE shortages within their local communities,” said Quintana. “These recent shortages and the role local makers are taking by becoming small scale manufacturers show the flexibility of these spaces and the ingenuity of the making community: arts and engineers working together.”

The face shields take about six hours to make from start to finish. Quintana uses eight 3D printers and continues to test prototypes and refine the design as she goes. She says it’s making an impact already.

“The appreciation that I've received from the few individuals I've donated to is heartwarming,” Quintana said. “We are all doing our best for others during this time by socially isolating and modifying our daily routines, our workdays and our academic lives. I'm giving back in my own my way, but so are many others.”

Quintana works alone in the campus lab, but says she doesn't feel isolated because she stays in regular contact with other creators from other institutions.

“It's an amazing feat we are accomplishing, and it gives many of us a way to give back to our real heroes, medical workers,” Quintana said. “The idea that we don't have to wait for factories abroad to deliver these life-saving objects is pretty incredible.”

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