Boeing ships out its first batch of face shields to protect COVID-19 medical teams

·3 min read
Sean Thuston
Sean Thuston, a machinist at Boeing Research and Technology, tries on a face shield. (Boeing via Twitter)

Boeing has shut down airplane production until further notice due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s pushing forward with production of medical equipment to shut down the virus’ spread.

The company says its first shipment of 2,300 face shields, manufactured using its 3-D printing capabilities in Puget Sound and other locales across the United States, was handed over to the Department of Health and Human Services today.

In a news release, Boeing said the Federal Emergency Management Agency will deliver the shields to the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in Dallas, which has been turned into a treatment site for COVID-19 patients. Medical professionals will use the shields as part of their personal protection equipment.

In addition to the shields, Boeing has donated tens of thousands of masks, gloves and other equipment to hospitals in need.

The face shield production operation was worked out by employees from Boeing Additive Manufacturing, Boeing Research & Technology, Boeing Supply Chain, Boeing HorizonX and Boeing Defense, Space & Security. Hospitals, universities and the Accenture professional services company helped lay the groundwork.

Boeing partnered with Design That Matters, a nonprofit group based in Redmond, Wash., to design the face shields, which consist of a 3-D printed frame with an adjustable headband.

One of Boeing’s suppliers, Solvay, is providing the clear sheets of plastic that are snapped onto the frame to protect the face. Another longtime supplier, Trelleborg Sealing Solutions, is donating the straps needed for the adjustable headband.

Frames are produced at additive manufacturing facilities in Puget Sound as well as at other Boeing sites in Alabama, Arizona, California, Missouri, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Utah. Boeing’s Argon ST subsidiary in Pennsylvania is also participating in the project. Boeing gave the go-ahead for participation by some of the sites where regular operations have been suspended, and more sites will join the list as additional 3-D printing capability is identified.

The components for the face shields are shipped to the Boeing site in St. Louis, where they’re assembled and packaged for shipping.

“We’ve got a special product here to help take care of the men and women out there in the medical industry,” Sean Thuston, a machinist at Boeing Research & Technology, said in a video about the project. “If we can do our part to keep them safe, then that’s good enough for us.”

Howard Rolleston, who heads an additive manufacturing team in Philadelphia, said “people have been coming out of the woodwork” to volunteer for the operation.

“They’ve been fantastic. Everyone has been working together,” he said.

Some of the volunteers have a personal interest in seeing the operation succeed. “The daughter of one of my co-workers is working as a triage nurse helping people who are getting infected with the coronavirus,” Rolleston said.

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