Michigan Airman provides PPE to frontline workers

Airman poses in office
Battle Creek ANGB Staff Sgt. Jacob Rader is using his personal 3D printer to help make protective gear.

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 Rader.

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 against COVID-19.

“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.

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