Nova Scotia

Dalhousie team uses 3D printing to build prototype for face shield

The mechanical engineering department at Dalhousie University has developed a face shield for health-care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

'Eventually we got it down to one or two that we liked'

Craig Arthur, one of the Dalhousie University team members, is pictured wearing one of the prototype masks. (Dalhousie University)

The mechanical engineering department at Dalhousie University has developed a face shield for health-care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Working in conjunction with the Nova Scotia Health Authority and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, the department has developed a prototype using 3D printing technology.

"Basically, over about a week we designed, printed and tested a whole raft of ideas," said Dr. Cliff Johnston, an associate professor at the university's mechanical engineering department. "Eventually we got it down to one or two that we liked."

Dr. Cliff Johnston says 10,000 masks could be made in a week. (Dalhousie University)

Team worked from home

Johnston said the small team worked on the project individually with 3D printers they took home so they could remain isolated.

As they continued to make tweaks they came up with a final design of a plastic headband, clear plastic shield and elastic bands.

Next came the task of mass production. A different model, using injection moulding, was considered.

"We could 3D print about a thousand of these a week, whereas if you did injection moulding of the product you could make about 10,000 a week," said Johnston.

Johnston has been told the health authority still has a good supply of masks for health-care workers. But the fear is if the system begins to get overloaded, that supply could dwindle quickly.

Mass production available

Johnston's team has provided a report to NSHA that included a manufacturer that could quickly mass produce the masks.

"They would take a week to get the moulds made," said Johnston. "In 10 weeks they could have 100,000 made if they needed it."

The decision to move forward with the manufacturing of the product now lies with the health authority.

The work being done by the Halifax team began immediately after the federal government called on universities and research institutes to offer their expertise against the coronavirus.

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About the Author

Paul Palmeter is an award-winning video journalist born and raised in the Annapolis Valley. He has covered news and sports stories across the province for 30 years.