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Kadena 3D prints shields in COVID-19 fight

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Vaughn Piwowarski-Mason, 18th Munitions Squadron munition systems specialist, prepares to print a 3D face shield through modeling software April 15, 2020, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Piwowarski-Mason uses his personal 3D printer in his dorm room to make face shields to help protect personnel from COVID-19.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Vaughn Piwowarski-Mason, 18th Munitions Squadron munition systems specialist, prepares to print a 3D face shield through modeling software April 15, 2020, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Piwowarski-Mason uses his personal 3D printer in his dorm room to make face shields to help protect personnel from COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mandy Foster)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Cyrus Bartony, 18th Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technology journeyman, prepares a 3D printed face shield to be printed through modeling software April 9, 2020, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The 18th EMS modified the original design so the mask could be assembled with supplies that are commonly found. The intention is to make a how-to guide for hospitals to print their own supply of personal protective equipment.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Cyrus Bartony, 18th Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technology journeyman, prepares a 3D printed face shield to be printed through modeling software April 9, 2020, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The 18th EMS modified the original design so the mask could be assembled with supplies that are commonly found. The intention is to make a how-to guide for hospitals to print their own supply of personal protective equipment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mandy Foster)

A 3D printer creates a prototype face shield April 9, 2020, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The 18th Equipment Maintenance Squadron works to produce mask frames and face shields for use in the fight against COVID-19.

A 3D printer creates a prototype face shield April 9, 2020, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The 18th Equipment Maintenance Squadron works to produce mask frames and face shields for use in the fight against COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mandy Foster)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Adrian Gonzalez and Airman 1st Class Cyrus Bartony, from the 18th Equipment Maintenance Squadron, work together to 3D print a face shield April 9, 2020, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Gonzalez and Bartony are the 3D print programmers that helped design the models to print personal protective equipment during COVID-19.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Adrian Gonzalez and Airman 1st Class Cyrus Bartony, from the 18th Equipment Maintenance Squadron, work together to 3D print a face shield April 9, 2020, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Gonzalez and Bartony are the 3D print programmers that helped design the models to print personal protective equipment during COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mandy Foster)

Airmen from the 18th Security Forces Squadron receive 3D printed face shields April 10, 2020, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The face shields are used to protect front-line workers, like security forces, who are interfacing with a large amount of people per day.

Airmen from the 18th Security Forces Squadron receive 3D printed face shields April 10, 2020, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The face shields are used to protect front-line workers, like security forces, who are interfacing with a large amount of people per day. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Mandy Foster)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- As experts search for vaccines, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) shortages have become a critical issue during the outbreak of COVID-19. Many companies, individuals, and institutions have stepped up to fulfill this growing demand – Kadena Air Base is no exception.

By utilizing the resources and talents of Airmen across Team Kadena, the Wing Innovations team determined how to best assist their community.

It was decided that designing and printing face shields would be best in conserving medical PPE, explained Maj. Darrell A. Lee, Jr., 18th Wing Innovations chief.

"We were immediately able to see the challenges other innovation hubs were having within their wings and had the opportunity to pull our resources together to come up with a solution that fit our situation here,” he said.

The design began with a fabrication team from the 18th Equipment Maintenance Squadron that modified the original face shield design to use materials that are readily available.

“What's great about this effort is that we learned from other Air Force innovation hubs from around the globe to do what we can with our resources and technology to help the 18th Wing prepare for a potential spike in COVID-19 cases,” Lee explained.

Along with the 18th EMS, the 18th Dental Squadron also started printing face shields on the unit's 3D printer and guided the Shogun Spark Innovation Hub on how to use their 3D printers to maximize production.

Because of the team’s efforts, almost 100 face shields were distributed to the 18th Medical Group and Security Forces Squadron. Once there is a surplus of face shields, the Wing Innovations team will donate the excess to the Naval Hospital in Guam.

“The face shields we are making help protect our front-line workers, like Security Forces, who are interacting with a large amount of people every day,” Lee stated.

In order to maximize efforts, the Wing Innovations team put out a call to Airmen who have the experience and capability to 3D print. Four of Team Kadena’s very own volunteered to step up and assist with the printing.

From work centers to dorm rooms, leisure time to duty hours, printing face shields has been a unified effort across the 18th Wing.

“Our Wing Innovations team was able to concentrate and coordinate the Airmen’s abilities to come up with a solution that will ultimately help conserve our vital medical PPE and more importantly help protect our Airmen from this potential threat,” Lee said.