In Berks County, a grassroots effort is providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to workers who can’t stay home during the COVID19 pandemic. The Berks PPE Resource Network is a consortium of people at area organizations including hobbyists and engineers working to 3D print face shields. Reading Area Community College (RACC) is one of the organizations participating.
Working closely with the PPE Resource Network and American Polarizers, a Reading-based precision engineered optics company, the Schmidt Training and Technology Center (STTC) on the RACC campus, has been transformed into a temporary face shield manufacturing and assembly hub. Led by STTC Director Bonnie Spayed, the facility has been producing full face protective shields and 3D printed face shield brackets as quickly as they can. “We will shortly have produced close to 3,000 face shields that will immediately be used in the field by police and emergency responders. I am so proud to be a part of this group of people who have come together to get this done for our community. Our STTC staff has been very creative and resourceful in pulling all the pieces together and producing and assembling this gear for our local heroes who are working hard to keep us safe during this pandemic,” says Spayd.
According to PPE Resource Network organizer Ellen Albright, director of talent and workforce development at Greater Reading Chamber Alliance, the partners were wondering how to harness existing 3D-printing resources to produce PPE for front-line workers.
“Instead of getting stuck in those questions — ‘How do we do that?’ or ‘What happens next?’ — we kept tapping this ad hoc committee that we had,” says Albright. “Take your piece of this and let’s run. Build the plane while you’re flying, because it’s not anything any of us had done before.”
It’s not only hospital workers who need the shields, though their PPE needs have understandably gotten the spotlight. According to Adelle Schade, a Network organizer and founder of the nonprofit Albright Science Research Institute, people like police officers, firefighters, Game Commission staffers, postal workers, grocery-store clerks, and even private-practice physicians have been going without face-shields while doing their essential jobs. The PPE Resource Network is fixing that.