The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Archive: 06/04/2020

UMass Amherst Libraries, members of the All-Campus Makerspace, Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS) and multiple faculty and students from Engineering and the Life Sciences began working together in mid-March to establish UMass Amherst COVID-19 Response Teams including those to coordinate resources to fabricate supplemental personal protective equipment (PPE) to support medical staff on the frontlines of the COVID-19 battle. 

From the Libraries, Sarah Hutton, Head of Student Success and Engagement; Steve Acquah, Digital Media Lab Coordinator and Adjunct Associate Professor of Chemistry; and Dennis Spencer, 3D Printing Services Supervisor are three of the more than 80 faculty and staff now working across disciplines and centers at UMass Amherst, using Microsoft Teams to share information and designs approved by the medical community to fabricate items such as frames for plastic face shields.

“We know of earlier efforts looking at producing materials by people who want to help,” explains Hutton. “University efforts first centered around making sure we were bringing the best science to bear on designs, and consulting with the NIH and health care professionals, before we started prototyping and producing.”

Even though the Libraries’ physical buildings are closed, staff from the Libraries’ Digital Media Lab have been printing component parts (visors, clips, and hinged clips) for face shields on Makerbot and Ultimaker printers, and are providing prototypes for a ventilator splitting-mechanism that could help alleviate the anticipated shortage of ventilators. 

The Science and Engineering Library team supported a nationwide medical librarian collaborative research initiative to contribute to a critical open-access collection of pertinent research, face shield designs and reviews, and patents. This face shield prototype diagnostic collection, created by Hutton, is actively utilized by the team at UMass Amherst, and has also attracted other institutions regionally and nationally to draw from the collected expertise to help support other localized fabrication efforts.

Peter Reinhart, Founding Director for UMass’s Institute of Applied Sciences, Frank Sup, Associate Professor, and Meghan Huber, Assistant Professor both of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, have been spearheading a number of the UMass Amherst COVID-19 Response Teams across campus and in local communities. Dave Follette, IALS Advanced Digital Design and Fabrication and Device Characterization Core Facilities Director, has been collaborating closely with Spencer to design printable face shield component parts that will best fit the need for the rapid production and distribution of safe equipment to those in need.  

Joined by Campus Makerspace Director Shira Epstein, Environmental Conservation and Public Policy Professor Charlie Schweik, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Assistant Professor Meghan Huber, and many dedicated researchers, engineers, and students across campus, the goal of collaborators is to leverage UMass’s resources to expand the production and distribution of essential PPE into local hospitals and other essential service areas in our communities to help continue flattening the curve.