Windsor

Chatham man has 3D printed almost 700 face shields for frontline health-care workers across Ontario

Chatham, Ont. resident Lucas K. Labrecque says he started 3D printing medical face shields because he wanted to find some way to help during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Lucas K. Labrecque has provided the face shields free of charge to people across southern Ontario

Lucas K. Labrecque says he wanted to find some way to help during the COVID-19 pandemic. So he took to his trusty 3D printer and began mass-producing face shields. (Submitted by Lucas K. Labrecque)

Chatham, Ont. resident Lucas K. Labrecque says he started 3D printing medical face shields because he wanted to find some way to help during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

After seeing news stories highlighting the dangers of coronavirus, as well as the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) in certain communities, the freelance television producer took to his trusty 3D printer to start producing face shields in the hope of distributing them to frontline care workers. 

"Immediately I downloaded the files and started working with that," he said. "I just started nonstop printing these things."

Using a technique called stack printing, Labrecque said he was able to mass produce stacks of face shield bands that can be taken apart and assembled with ease. Once the bands have been printed, he simply use plastic book covers to serve as the protective component.

Using a method called stack printing, Lucas K. Labrecque is able to produce approximately 30 face shields every day. (Submitted by Lucas K. Labrecque)

"Instead of doing one at a time, which is really not very effective, this thing will print them in a stack," he said. "That saves a lot of time, it saves a lot of energy and the prints are really good."

Thanks to the technique, Labrecque said he's now able to produce approximately 30 face shields every day.

He's splitting up many of his orders with another avid 3D printer, Chris Lapp, who lives in Chatham.

"I sterilize them — I put them in a bleach bath or an isopropyl bath, I put them in specific bags with specific cleaning instructions … and I just get them out," he said. 

Despite his eagerness to provide help, however, Labrecque​​​​​​​ said he's had a difficult time convincing large institutions like hospitals to accept his 3D printed face shields. 

Beyond simply printing the face shields, Lucas K. Labrecque also sterilizes the protective tools in a bleach or isopropyl alcohol bath before distributing them. (Submitted by Lucas K. Labrecque)

"There was one hospital that said we need face shields, I go there and they said 'Fill up this form and fill up that form,' and I'm like, I just want to get the face shields to you, I want to drop them off."

Instead of reaching out to organizations, Labrecque said he now reaches out directly to the health-care workers who need PPE most, which he's able to do thanks to a network of friends and other contacts he's been able to make.

"For example in Haldiman region last week, a friend of mine … works in the community theatre, and she knows a lot of places, she knows the nurses and she was able to contact them and arrange it."

At one point, Labrecque​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ said he even reactivated an old dating website profile to connect with nurses who might be interested in the face shields. 

After connecting with health-care workers in need, Lucas K. Labrecque drives to a parking lot and allows workers to pick up the face shields, all while maintaining a safe distance. (Submitted by Lucas K. Labrecque)

"I started contacting them directly through the dating website," he said. "And once they realized I'm not some guy finding a new way of hitting on them, they helped out." Labrecque​​​​​​​ says he's going to a couple of nurses directly over their bosses.

Once he connects with people interested in his face shields, Labrecque said he simply drops off the PPE from a safe distance, and moves on to his next stop.

So far, he's delivered almost 700 face shields to staff in Chatham, Blenheim, Woodstock, Hamilton, Lindsay, Bobcaygeon, Ottawa and parts of the Haldiman-Dunnville-Niagara region. 

Labrecque​​​​​​​ said he was especially moved during his trip to Bobcaygeon.

To date, Lucas K. Labrecque has donated almost 700 face shields across southern Ontario. Later this week, he plans on travelling to Manitoulin Island to connect with workers. (Submitted by Lucas K. Labrecque)

"I saw what happened in Bobcaygeon and how they lost half of their population of the retirement home to this terrible virus, and just how people were standing out on their front lawn," he said. "It was a real catatonic state that the people of Bobcaygeon were in. It was almost like the soul of that town was ripped out."

As for what's next, Labrecque​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ said he soon plans on travelling to Manitoulin Island, where many Indigenous communities, as well as ferry operators don't have any face shields. 

"Everyone needs it, and if this thing can stop [COVID-19] from happening and spreading, then it's all worth it," he said. 

"This is history and history demands that you help."

With files from Tahmina Aziz

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