AFL engineers 3D-printed face shields for COVID-19 frontline workers

April 17, 2020
Kelvin Turner, applications engineering manager for AFL’s conductor accessories, noticed multiple companies providing personal protection equipment for the medical industry and felt compelled to support efforts locally.

AFL (Spartanburg, SC) is supporting efforts in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic by creating face shields for the medical industry.

Using 3D printing technology, more than 100 face shields engineered by the manufacturer have been sent to local hospitals in South Carolina, including the Spartanburg Medical Center, Pelham Medical Center and another upstate hospital, with more expected to be printed and dispersed.

Kelvin Turner, applications engineering manager for AFL’s conductor accessories, noticed multiple companies providing personal protection equipment for the medical industry and felt compelled to support efforts locally.

In a conversation with Anita Turner, his mother and a local nurse practitioner, Turner learned that medical associates were conserving N-95 masks as much as possible due to a lack of availability.

“Looking into both masks and face shields, I realized that face shields were faster to make and posed no health risk to the medical staff when wearing them,” explained Turner. “Additionally, face shields provide greater protection from exposure to bodily fluids.”

After researching distribution sources to purchase face shields, Turner realized that none existed locally. Within two days, he and his team at AFL researched designs online, created their own, and produced a prototype of a 3D-printed face shield. The prototype was sent to a doctor for review, then approved and shared with other doctors in the community who have asked for these same face shields.

Turner continued, “More than 100 face shields have been delivered to Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System and 18 to another hospital. Another 100+ are immediately needed for doctors, nurses, physician assistants and nurse practitioners. We are projecting that we will create approximately 1,000 face shields for our area.”

The 3D printer at AFL in Spartanburg supports engineering and production needs such as prototyping parts and production tooling for fiber-optic cable, accessories and equipment. The printer is used daily; however, when not in use, it has been instrumental in “manufacturing” these face shields.

The face shields consist of two pieces: the 3D-printed headband made of ASA plastic and the shield made of polycarbonate. The two pieces snap together once complete and can be cleaned with chemicals hospitals used to disinfect for bacteria.

Jon Potter, commercial manager of AFL’s conductor accessories, realized another need in the hospitals' fight against COVID-19—surgical mask strap relief devices. “Nurses’ ears are bleeding from wearing surgical masks on top of N-95 masks. These devices extend the straps, relieving pressure around the ears,” said Potter. These devices are also currently being tested at Spartanburg Regional.

Pelham Medical Center President Tony Kouskolekas thanked AFL for its generous donation, which will benefit frontline caregivers. “We can’t thank AFL enough for its support,” Kouskolekas said. “The outpouring of support we’ve received from the community has been truly inspiring.”

AFL is an international manufacturer of fiber optic cable, accessories and equipment. For more information on the 3D-printed facial shields, contact Kelvin Turner, 864.764.4233 or [email protected].

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