Pablo Center Producing Protective Equipment for Healthcare Workers and First Responders

Posted: April 9, 2020

3D Printed Face Shield Visor

Workforce Development and Outreach staff and equipment tapped in effort to aid the fight against COVID-19


(EAU CLAIRE, WIS. April 9, 2020) -  Pablo Center at the Confluence is pleased to share that our community-wide efforts to fight against COVID-19 have come to fruition after weeks of planning. Aiming to help fill the gap for needed personal protective equipment in our community, Pablo Center initiated plans to use 3D printers to create NIH-approved face shields for use in area hospitals.  The National Institute of Health (NIH) approved designs make the shields suitable for wear by all healthcare workers, such as doctors and nurses. This effort included creating proof of concept, receiving approval for use, and reaching out to other members of our community to help broaden this collaborative effort.   

Technologies, equipment, and partnerships, that are components of Pablo Center’s workforce development and outreach programs, are normally used to bring skills and expanded knowledge to community members interested in advancing new skills and career opportunities. Since Pablo Center closed its door in March due to COVID-19, these technologies, partnerships, and minds have not gone unused. They have been reinvented and recharged to support the many helping to fight against COVID-19.  These efforts have been spearheaded by Workforce Development and Community Outreach Manager, Mike Lee, who created proof of concept for use in the Chippewa Valley after Executive Director Jason Jon Anderson put forward the idea of repurposing Pablo Center’s existing equipment and materials.

“It is through these types of confluences - inception of an idea, thought-leaders with potential solutions, the right tools, and regional collaboration - which highlight the best we all have to offer.  When I approached Mike just under two weeks ago with a design for a 3D print and the hope we could make it work at Pablo Center, he had already started working on finding collaborators to work with to help utilize our resources to help our regions frontline medical teams.  He has been working non-stop for the last two weeks with a coalition of makers and regional health providers.  I am so proud of Dr. Mike Lee and of Pablo Center’s role in this initiative,” says Executive Director Jason Jon Anderson.

Using Pablo Center’s two Prusa MK3S printers, purchased through previous funding by Xcel Energy and the AnnMarie Foundation, and PLA and PET-G filament material donated by Pablo Center, Lee is creating face shield visors with those printers that he has since moved to his home.  Pablo Center Robotics Club mentors and students are also joining the effort with in-home equipment with support from Pablo Center. The Chippewa Valley Makers Groups, a group of which Lee is a founding member, is also using 3D-printers running in homes and businesses across the Chippewa Valley to produce around 200 NIH approved face shield visors per day.  The Chippewa Valley Makers Group consists of over 25 area organizations, clubs, corporations, groups and individuals equipped to create, ensemble, and deliver this essential protective gear. The Eau Claire Children’s Museum has also donated the use of their four 3D printers for Pablo Center’s use in this undertaking.

These visors are attached to donated plastic shields provided. The final shields are assembled by University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students at a centralized location provided by the Mayo Clinic Health System. The assembled face shields are then distributed to area hospitals and first responders. 

The scope of this group’s collaboration is just another undertaking that proves this community is stronger together, even when we need to stay physically distant. Pablo Center is proud to lend a hand to support frontline healthcare workers and responders close to home.   

To find out how to get involved with Chippewa Valley Makers Group’s efforts to creating face shields, please contact Mike Lee at mike@pablocenter.org

To donate materials or support Pablo Center’s workforce development programs and initiatives, please consider making a gift here at https://www.pablocenter.org/support/donate/ or contact Monica Frederick at monica@pablocenter.org. Pablo Center at the Confluence is a 501c3 organization, all gifts are tax-deductible.

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