MC math professors use 3D printing to create face shields for Blount Memorial Hospital

MC math professors use 3D printing to create face shields for Blount Memorial Hospital

March 31, 2020

The 3D printers used by Maryville College’s Division of Mathematics and Computer Science would normally be printing student projects at this point in the semester, but right now, they’re helping fill a critical need: making face shields for Blount Memorial Hospital.

Two Maryville College mathematics faculty members – who are also MC alumni – are leading the project: Dr. Chase Worley ’11 and Dr. Jesse Smith ’08.

The professors had been collecting 3D printers for students to use inside and outside the classroom, but those printers have been idle due to the COVID-19 pandemic (the Maryville College campus is closed, and the College has moved classroom instruction to distance-learning formats for the remainder of the semester). Worley and Smith decided to use the printers to help local health professionals who are on the front lines.

Worley said that since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been many stories about people using 3D printers to “Hack the Pandemic,” but he and Smith initially questioned the validity of those stories. Then he saw a story on Twitter about Joel Telling – also known as “the 3D Printing Nerd” – printing face shield headbands in Seattle and donating them to local hospitals.

“I thought there may be something to this,” said Worley, visiting lecturer in mathematics. “Joel was using a model from Erik Cederberg from Sweden. That same night, I saw a story about faculty and staff at the University of Tennessee printing headbands. It looked like they were using a model that originated from another big name in 3D printing, Josef Prusa from Prague. That is when I decided to begin reaching out to people to see what their needs could be.”

Worley wanted to keep these efforts local, so he contacted administrators at Blount Memorial Hospital to see if they were in need of face shields for hospital staff. He received an enthusiastic “Yes!” from BMH, so he quickly went to work to create a prototype for approval from the hospital. Once that was approved, he and Smith started printing.

The professors had the filament for the printers, but they still needed the shield material. With help from Amy Gilliland, director of community engagement at Maryville College, the professors were able to purchase additional supplies through the Maryville College Community-Engaged Learning Initiative, which is funded by the Corella and Bertram F. Bonner Foundation. Blount Memorial Hospital is a longtime community partner of the College, so this is “another great way to continue the collaboration,” Gilliland said. Earlier this year, Dr. Carl Gombert’s art students created a mural at the hospital.

The shield itself can be made out of any acetate material, Worley said, noting that some hospitals are using transparencies. He and Smith are using thermal pouches, since they are slightly thicker, and they are using a three-hole punch to make six holes in the shield and attach them to the headband.

Worley said printing takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour for each headband, depending on the printer. The professors are using several different printers to print the headbands. The largest printer they have access to at the College is one that was purchased by Mike Goodrich ’92, owner and president of Cornerstone Analytical Laboratories (CAL), a contract-testing and method-development facility that performs unique yet necessary tests for pharmaceutical, dietary, manufacturing, academic and chemical research industries. The business is located on the second floor of Sutton Science Center on campus, and Goodrich works regularly with MC faculty and students to provide hands-on learning opportunities.

By March 30, the professors had made 35 face shields, which were delivered that day to BMH. As of April 15, about 180 completed face shields have been delivered to Blount Memorial Hospital and East Tennessee Medical Group.

“We plan on making as many face shields as we can, as time permits,” Worley said.

The hospital will start using the face shields right away, said Blount Memorial Hospital CEO Don Heinemann.

“We are extremely appreciative of these face shields, and of the ingenuity of Dr. Worley and Dr. Smith in coming up with the idea of making them for us,” Heinemann said. “Our partnership with Maryville College dates back to the very beginning of Blount Memorial Hospital, and while we’ve come to expect our community to pull together in times of need, we certainly never take it for granted. These pieces of equipment are needed now more than ever, and they’ll be put into use immediately.”

Smith, lecturer in mathematics, said the Maryville College Covenant – which includes the tenets of scholarship, respect and integrity – plays a large part in his interest and involvement in the project. He said he first became interested in the 3D printing process about two years ago, when he was a new member of the College’s Keepers of the Covenant (a campus advisory group that is responsible for fostering the concept of the Covenant). The group had the idea to 3D print a scan of the campus’s Covenant Stone as a prize for the annual Keepers of the Covenant award. (The Covenant Stone is a large stone of Tennessee marble etched with the words “Scholarship,” “Respect” and “Integrity.” It is placed in the middle of campus, near Anderson Hall.)

“So my interest in the field started because of the MC Covenant,” Smith said. “As an alumnus of Maryville College, it is also because of the MC Covenant that I am excited to help make face shields for Blount Memorial Hospital. Putting my knowledge of 3D printing into a force for good is respecting and supporting my neighbors. I think we are all called to help others when we can, and we should put action to our words – that’s integrity. I’m thankful for Dr. Chase Worley getting the ball rolling on this project.”

MC employees sew masks for local healthcare professionals

Brenda Eingle, administrative assistant for the Natural Sciences and Math & Computer Sciences Divisions at MC, is also pitching in to help local healthcare professionals by sewing face masks.

She got the idea from social media posts that requested help from those who can sew, and she got a pattern for masks from Blount Memorial Hospital. Each mask is made using 100 percent cotton fabric that is double stitched, a metal nose piece and four ties (one at each corner). The finished mask is 8 inches wide by 4 inches tall.

Working from an assembly-line type set-up, Eingle said it takes about 40 minutes to complete a mask, “but I expect to be more efficient soon.”

On March 30, she had made 30 masks to donate to Blount Memorial Hospital. She hopes to complete 30 each week until the crisis is over.

“I will give wherever there is a need,” Eingle said.

Other MC employees who are sewing masks include Michele DiDiego, Natural Sciences lab assistant; Dr. Maria Siopsis, associate professor of mathematics; Ramona Ferguson Crawford ’07, administrative assistant for the Division of Education and the Division of Health Sciences & Outdoor Studies; and Dr. Shahla Ray, adjunct instructor of biology

Story written by Chloe Kennedy, Assistant Director of Communications

Maryville College is a nationally-ranked institution of higher learning and one of America’s oldest colleges. For more than 200 years, we’ve educated students to be giving citizens and gifted leaders, to study everything, so that they are prepared for anything — to address any problem, engage with any audience and launch successful careers right away. Located in Maryville, Tennessee, between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the city of Knoxville, Maryville College offers nearly 1,200  students from around the world both the beauty of a rural setting and the advantages of an urban center, as well as more than 60 majors, seven pre-professional programs and career preparation from their first day on campus to their last. Today, our 10,000 alumni are living life strong of mind and brave of heart and are prepared, in the words of our Presbyterian founder, to “do good on the largest possible scale.”