SEATTLE—The coronavirus pandemic triggered a run on personal protective equipment (PPE), like face shields for frontline medical staff, and now Amazon is banding together with 3D printing groups to create ways to mass produce them for workers.
In early March, a program manager at Amazon heard about a community group of 3D printing enthusiasts in Washington state who started making face shields for frontline workers. Comprised of makers and professionals of various vocations, this group had started to develop their own design and was building these by hand out of their homes and offices.
“Seeing the need, this Amazonian brought on colleagues from Prime Air’s mechanical design and hardware teams. In no time, they were contributing solutions to this growing problem,” Brad Porter with Amazon said in a recent blog post shared with NACS Daily. Porter is a vice president and distinguished engineer leading Amazon’s robotics initiatives including robotic drive units, recent Canvas acquisition, the Scout delivery bot program and Prime Air drone delivery.
In a week, engineers from Amazon’s drone team coordinated with the open source group to improve the initial design based on direct feedback from medical professionals. The new design had a higher quality of the materials to allow the face shields to be reusable, plus added an enhanced snap feature to keep the shield in place to make them safer. The engineers also amended the geometry to reduce sharp edges that could snag clothing or hair, thinned the forehead band to reduce pressure on a person’s forehead, and drastically improved print time making them quicker to manufacture.
“Making sure the shields could be produced quickly and at scale, we produced a detailed open sourced design package for both 3D printing and injection molding. This means that anyone, whether an individual or large company, can access and manufacture frames for their community’s needs,” Porter said.
Amazon also worked with a team of doctors to receive approval for the design from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “With this approval, medical professionals knew the shields were authorized to the national standard and could feel comfortable accepting them as donations, or if they wanted to produce them on their own,” he said.
Beyond refining the design, Amazon is also mass-producing these face shields and making them available at-cost on Amazon.com. To date, Amazon has donated nearly 10,000 face shields and is on track to deliver 20,000 more in the coming weeks.
“Because of the design innovations and the capabilities of our supply chain, we are confident we will be able to list them at a significantly lower price—almost a third of the cost—than all other reusable face shields currently available to frontline workers,” Porter said. “We are looking to prioritize frontline workers and then eventually open up to all Amazon customers.”