Troy Boulware has had a 3-D printer at his home for two years, since they became economical for the hobbyist. In his spare time, he prints all sorts of objects for fun or for practical use, using his own ideas or open-source designs available on the internet.
In the past month, the IT expert, a the Hilton Head Island native, has manufactured 200 face shields at home, using a design made available by a Southern California company, MatterHackers, from whom he buys printing supplies.
Boulware then shipped the shields to the company to be distributed to healthcare professionals in need around the country to combat COVID-19.
"When the coronavirus started to become more of a pandemic, the 3-D community started to come together to help in the way that they know how - printing," Boulware said. "Face shield models began to be distributed freely among users by printer manufacturers and groups on social media platforms across the globe."
Hobbyist printers are creating the brackets to fit anyone's head comfortably. A single sheet of overhead projector transparency, after getting a three-hole punch, attaches to "nubs" on the sides and front of the bracket.
The face shield bracket is made of PETG (polyethylene terephthalate glycol), a thermoplastic polyester that provides significant chemical resistance, durability and formability for manufacturing.
The transparent plastic shield fits from the bracket at the top of the forehead to below the jaw.
Though created locally, the shields aren't able to be delivered locally, unless the medical entity has already approved this particular design. That's why Boulware ships them to MatterHatters - to be sure that his efforts are welcomed by agencies who have approved them.
The original design began with a Czechoslovakian company that turned it over to a Swedish company because of challenging manufacturing standards in the U.S.
"I am simply a volunteer using my equipment to help someone else," Boulware said. "I'm not looking to win a Nobel Prize. I'm just trying to help my fellow humans as best I can."
Lowcountry resident Dean Rowland is a veteran senior editor and freelance writer.