Stuckeman School professor, students join efforts to 3D print face shields

Pamela Krewson Wertz
April 03, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Marcus Shaffer, associate professor of architecture at Penn State, and two architecture graduate students in the Stuckeman School have joined the efforts of the worldwide additive manufacturing community in 3D printing face shields that could potentially be used by doctors, nurses and health care workers, who are on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shaffer, along with the husband and wife team of Julio Diarte and Elena Vazquez, who are both doctoral students, are 3D printing the headbands and hand-cutting the shields from transparent sheets from their respective homes in State College. They are using the online guide created by architect Jenny Sabin, which Shaffer found when researching ways he could use 3D printing to help during the pandemic.

Sabin’s lab and the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning at Cornell University — where Sabin is the Arthur L. and Isabel B. Wiesenberger Professor in Architecture — are collaborating with other Cornell departments to address the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) at Weill Cornell Medical Center in an initiative called “Project PPE.” 

Shaffer said he was compelled to help because he knows how design enriches all of our lives.

“Many of my friends are artists, designers, architects . . . and this period of isolation has made clear how rich our lives are because we can be productive by making things that are beautiful, useful or both,” said Shaffer. “As a person who spent a significant time of my life as a designer working in New York City, I just felt compelled to turn my tools and machines toward potentially helping that city.”

A small 3D printer on Marcus Shaffer's workstation at his home.

Marcus Shaffer's 3D printing workstation at his home in State College.

IMAGE: Penn State

Having lived in New York during the 9/11 attacks, Shaffer said that the feelings of loss and uncertainty, coupled with the city as a whole coming to a standstill back then, are still fresh in his memory.

“When I found Jenny Sabin's website and Project PPE, I turned on the 3D printer in my little factory here at home and it literally has not stopped,” added Shaffer.

Diarte, one of Shaffer’s advisees, said he and Vazquez felt compelled to assist with the effort after reading about the MASC initiative at Penn State.

“Elena and I borrowed a 3D printer from the FORMAT Lab in the Stuckeman School to continue our research at home, so we figured, ‘why not print some headbands in the downtime when we’re not working?’” explained Diarte. “We take turns at home — one works on their research and the other prints — and then we switch.”

Split image of Juio Diarte working at his desk with a 3D printer working to his right and Elena Vasquez with the 3D printed headbands on a work station.

The husband and wife team of Julio Diarte and Elena Vazquez, both architecture doctoral students, at work in their State College home 3D printing headbands for face shields. 

IMAGE: Penn State

As of April 2, Shaffer, Diarte and Vazquez had printed 70 headbands, and the trio expects to print 100 more this week. 

'We Are' stories

The “We Are” spirit is perhaps more important than ever before, and Penn Staters everywhere are coming together in new and amazing ways. During these challenging times, our community is continuing to realize Penn State’s commitment to excellence through acts of collaboration, thoughtfulness and kindness. As President Eric Barron has written on Digging Deeper, this truly is a “We Are” moment — and we want to hear your “We Are” stories. 

Visit news.psu.edu/WeAre to share how you or other Penn Staters are supporting each other to overcome the collective challenges presented by the novel coronavirus. We are! 

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Last Updated April 23, 2020