By Tech. Sgt. Jason Boyd
BATTLE CREEK, MICH. - With the world changing day-to-day due to the
COVID-19 outbreak, many people are trying to find ways to keep busy and
stay safe. For some it’s getting more exercise, cleaning the house and
ensuring they have the essentials to get by until things get back to
some sort of normal. For one Airman with the Michigan Air National
Guard, its finding a way to help anyway he can.
Staff Sgt. Jacob Rader, an operations intelligence analyst, 110th
Operations Group, Battle Creek Air National Guard Base, Mich., has come
up with a way to provide comfort to those on the front line by using a
3D printer to create face shields.
Rader says he bought the printer for Christmas and when all of this
started, he decided this would be a good way to put it to use.
“I had been reading about others who had been creating masks and other
equipment and decided to start printing a few tests models to see how
they turned out and to have on hand,” Rader said.
A 3D printer is very much like an inkjet printer operated from a
computer. It builds up a 3D model one layer at a time, from the bottom
upward, by repeatedly printing over the same area in a method known as
fused depositional modeling (FDM). Working entirely automatically, the
printer creates a model over a period of hours by turning a 3D
Computer-Aided Design (CAD) drawing into lots of two-dimensional,
cross-sectional layers—effectively separate 2D prints that sit one on
top of another, but without the paper in between. Instead of using ink,
which would never build up to much volume, the printer deposits layers
of molten plastic or powder and fuses them together (and to the existing
structure) with adhesive or ultraviolet light.
“The face shield model I downloaded from the internet took about eight
hours to print a single mask at the fastest print speed my printer could
manage. I further edited the model and pared down the size to be able
to print eight masks in one continuous 24-hour print session,” said
To date he’s printed 12 face masks which use a standard letter size
plastic document protector to protect the wearers face. Each cost
roughly three dollars to make. The masks defend the wearers face from
airborne fluids, are serializable and reusable, and are able to be
produced by anyone with a 3D printer.
He said that one of his coworkers had a family member working at Bronson
Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, Mich. and they were in need of more
PPE, so he donated them to the staff there to help in their fight
“It started with just trying to see how they would turn out and to have
on hand, but after hearing about the shortages of personal protective
equipment (PPE) for the medical field, I feel it is the right thing to
do,” he said.