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WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

CWRU, Local Manufacturers Practice 'Fierce Cooperation' in Face Shield Project

photo of face shield
The partnership to create about 5,000 face shields a day includes Case Western Reserve University, Penn State and several Ohio and Pennsylvania manufacturers.

A chance phone call by a Case Western Reserve University engineer has led to a major effort to mass produce face shields for healthcare professionals.

Ian Charnas is director of innovation and technology at Sears think[box], a makerspace at Case Western. And he’s been following social media chatter about personal protective equipment (PPE) such as clear face shields that can protect healthcare workers.

“3-D printed parts have pores and crevices, tiny little holes where the virus droplets can hide. An injection-molded part, on the other hand, is solid and nonporous. So it can be cleaned with a bleach wipe [or] alcohol wipe.”

The shields look like clear welder’s masks and are intended to be used along with other PPE like N95 masks.

“Where normally there would be legal discussions and intellectual property discussions, we’re getting the green light to move faster than ever before. So fast, that we were able to go from an idea to mass manufactureable design – with companies machining molds and dies – in six days. This normally takes years. It’s been incredible to see what happens when there’s a moon shot project that everyone is aligned on.”

Charnas and his team began discussing a way to mass produce the injection-molded shields with local manufacturers – and discovered Penn State was doing the same thing. The two schools merged their efforts and Charnas expects they’ll be producing and shipping product by the end of next week to their first customer, Cleveland Clinic.

They’re also making their designs free and available to any company or hospital that wants to make their own face shields.

Charnas on partnering for a coronavirus 'moonshot'

'Fierce cooperation'
The shields are being sold at cost to any hospital that contacts the vendor, Bliley Technologies Inc.

Charnas teamed with Bill Rabbitt, engineering project manager at Nottingham Spirk and double engineering alumnus of Case Western Reserve, and Jason Williams, an assistant teaching professor of engineering at Penn State Behrend in Erie.

University Hospitals, Cleveland-based MAGNET and several local companies are also coordinating the effort. Akron-based R.C. Musson Rubber Co. will make the rubber straps. Die Cut Products of Cleveland will supply additional clear shields.

The supply chain also includes three Erie manufacturing companies: Port Erie Plastics, which is building the mold and molding the frames; Munot Plastics, which will produce the shields; and Bliley Technologies Inc., which will manage logistics and distribution to Northeast Ohio and Erie and State College, Pennsylvania.

The state's response
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is encouraging other manufacturers to help out as well. 

He announced the Ohio Manufacturing Alliance to Fight COVID-19, a public/private collaboration to provide healthcare workers with PPE. He's asking manufacturers to visit repurposingproject.com to see what's needed and how they might be able to assist.