ISU, Alliant Energy partner on PPE face shields for hospitals

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ISU design student Bryan Dellett of Geneseo, Illinois, loads printing parameters into a 3D printer. A team of design students are operating a dozen 3D printers to manufacture face shield visors to assist with the health care industry's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The work is ongoing inside the College of Design's Computation and Construction Lab. Photo by Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University

ISU design student Bryan Dellett of Geneseo, Illinois, looks over a pair of finished visor frames. A team of design students are operating a dozen 3D printers to manufacture face shield visors to assist with the health care industry’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The work is ongoing inside the College of Design’s Computation and Construction Lab. Photo by Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Alliant Energy has partnered with a team of Iowa State University students to make face shields for medical professionals in Iowa hospitals who need the personal protective equipment in fighting the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The face shields are being printed on 3D printers at Iowa State University’s Computation and Construction Lab (CCL) within the College of Design, with Alliant Energy funding the 3D printing and donating the supplies to Iowa State.

“Alliant Energy is committed to serving and helping our customers and communities,” said Linda Mattes, vice president of customer and IT operations at Alliant Energy. “We’re proud to partner with Iowa State University during this health crisis to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus and save lives.”

Alliant will also distribute the face shields to hospitals across Iowa. The partnership hopes to manufacture up to 2,000 shields.

The idea for the shields came from two Alliant Energy employees who were inspired by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ comments during a recent press conference on the use of 3D printers. They reached out to Iowa State University, and the opportunity to empower architecture students to innovatively create protective face shields for use in local hospitals arose.

Shelby Doyle, assistant professor of architecture and co-founder of Iowa State’s Computation and Construction Lab, is leading the effort of eight Iowa State students to manufacture the shields. According to a news release issued by Iowa State University, the students work in rotating shifts in a “socially distanced” assembly line to put the parts of the shields together. It takes two to three hours to print the parts for each face shield.

“The student employees are making the best of a really challenging moment where a lot of us feel really helpless as we watch this pandemic unfurl,” Doyle said. “Fabricating face shields is a small way for us to engage that is within our capabilities.”

Thirty 3D printers are being used to create parts for the face shields. The students 3D print the top and bottom segments of the shields while adding a clear plastic cover and elastic band to secure around a person’s head.

Each student wears gloves and continuously disinfects the work area and materials. Upon completion, the shields are disinfected again before being placed in sealed containers.

In addition to funding the face shield project, Alliant Energy has recently donated more than 800 N95 masks to medical facilities and organizations in Iowa. Mattes said Alliant will continue to monitor and evaluate community needs during the health crisis. For more information visit Alliant Energy’s COVID-19 resource page.

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