By Katie Scott, Air Force Institute of Technology
/ Published April 14, 2020
A manufactured face structure used for N95 face shield prototype molding. (Courtesy photo)
The Air Force Institute of Technology’s additive manufacturing laboratory is using 3D printing to develop N95 face shield prototypes to extend the longevity of the masks. (Courtesy photo)
Final requested designs include 3D printed structural components for a full face shield. (Courtesy photo)
Initial prototypes that were 3D printed with various material types. (Courtesy photo)
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio - The Air Force Institute of Technology’s additive manufacturing laboratory has been printing face shield prototypes for the National Air and Space Intelligence Center to extend the longevity of N95 masks. The 88th Medical Group at Wright-Patterson AFB is testing the prototypes to determine if they are approved for use.
The first iteration of the N95 shields were 3D printed flat and then shaped to fit over the N95 mask. The shields are intended to prevent abrasion and keep liquids or particulates away from the mask.
The second round of prototypes have been a face shield comprised of a headband with top and bottom structural supports. These hold a thin piece of clear acrylic or similar material to keep particles and fluids away from masks, as well as minimize indirect breathing to one another.
“The team is using a Stratasys Fortus 450, with Ultem 9085 polyetherimide filament. The material provides high strength, flexibility, and chemical stability,” said Dr. Carl Hartsfield, assistant professor of aerospace engineering within AFIT’s Graduate School of Engineering and Management. “The 88th MDG will test for any reaction by the plastics when cleaned with bleach solutions and that either before or after cleaning, the plastics do not cause a skin reaction for the wearer.”
“Following material selection, testing, and prototyping efforts with groups around Wright-Patt AFB, including NASIC and the 88th MDG, AFIT’s additive manufacturing team has their polymer printers running around the clock,” said Travis Shelton, research engineer within the Graduate School’s Aeronautics and Astronautics department.
AFIT’s Graduate School of Engineering and Management has been using additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, to digitally fabricate prototype aerospace parts for more than 30 years in support of defense focused graduate research. Using their expertise to design and print N95 mask shields is one way AFIT faculty and staff are supporting efforts to help mitigate and stop the spread of COVID-19.
“Defense resilience, readiness, and responsiveness are essential in periods of exigency. I am delighted that AFIT was able to answer this call to leverage our 3D printing research and development capabilities,” said Dr. Adedeji Badiru, dean, Graduate School of Engineering and Management.