In March 2020, with the coronavirus pandemic straining hospital capacity and shutting down global supply chains, healthcare facilities faced a desperate shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers on the front lines.
UW Health University Hospital contacted the University of Wisconsin (UW) College of Engineering’s Design Innovation Lab (Makerspace), wondering if they could quickly produce 1,000 face shields for their healthcare providers. The shields are worn over surgical or N95 masks to protect from respiratory droplets that contagious patients might cough or sneeze out.
Unlike N95s or ventilators, face shields can be built without specialized materials or medical knowledge. Lennon Rodgers of the UW Makerspace made a quick trip to Home Depot to gather supplies and do a rough prototype that he showed to his wife, a physician.
He then reached out to Jesse Darley, Director of Mechanical Engineering at Delve, and Brian Ellison of Midwest Prototyping. Over the next couple of days, the team worked closely with UW Health’s infection control department to settle on a design that was familiar to healthcare providers and matched the existing workflow of single-use, donning, doffing, and material handling.
The birth of Badger Shield
The design, which the group dubbed Badger Shield, uses four materials: a clear PETG (Glycol Modified version of Polyethylene Terephthalate) lens, a polyurethane foam cushion for the user’s forehead, a latex-free elastic for the headband, and two staples to connect the band to the lens. They decided to use commonly available materials, rather than 3D-printing, so production could scale up quickly to meet the extreme demand.
Just three days after the initial request, Delve published an open-source design on our website. To make it easier for others to produce, the team compiled lists of suppliers selling raw materials.
Largely in tandem with the development of the face shield design, operations management experts from UW-Madison and UCLA developed an online portal to match healthcare facilities and manufacturers. The operations experts created a software program that prioritizes requests by urgency and proximity to manufacturers in real time.
While standard PPE channels prioritize hospitals, the Badger Shield algorithm is designed to also get supplies to smaller medical facilities and essential workers like nursing home aides and garbage collectors. A team of a few people created this program, which has handled requests for millions of shields, within a week.
Rapid adoption worldwide
Word of the open-source design and manufacturer-provider portal spread quickly through the healthcare, university, manufacturing, and maker communities. The project received international media attention from outlets including Wired, The Wall Street Journal, and Nature. Within six weeks of launch, 350 healthcare facilities had requested 5.4 million shields through the Badger Shield website.
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