Bond Center Steps Up for PPE Production Effort

The City University of New York is helping to produce thousands of pieces of much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE) for local frontline health workers through the use of 3D printing, an emerging technology that has provided an invaluable means for CUNY campuses to assist the battle against the coronavirus. City College has 14 3D printers from four departments producing a total of around 300 Verkstan frames per day, headband-like frames that are used to secure the plastic face shields worn by health workers. The effort was driven by Jeffrey Garanich, director of the translational medicine master’s degree program at the Grove School of Engineering; Shawn L. Rickenbacker, associate professor and director of the J. Max Bond Center for Urban Futures at the Spitzer School; and Ronald Koder, associate professor of biophysics.


City College’s team from joined forces to mobilize the 3D fabrication technologies to generate these badly needed supplies. To respond quickly, they marshaled a collective effort that utilized the best qualities of academia: scientific ingenuity, interdisciplinary collaboration, crisis management and community connection.


“As designers, researchers and educators, working collaboratively is essential to our effort to positively impact this pandemic,” said Rickenbacker. “Our main focus was less about innovation, and more about logistics and best practices in offering a stopgap measure and getting supplies to front-line medical workers.”


Garanich, Rickenbacker, and Koder sifted through protective equipment designs, consulted with medical professionals and settled on the Verkstan frames, which balanced a need in the field with their capability to scale timely high production. To ensure production quality, they verified the designs with the National Institutes of Health. Next, they appealed to City College leadership to obtain access to the equipment amid the campus’ closure.  They drew on community connections, and in late March the 3D printers were relocated from City College’s upper Manhattan campus to Hack Manhattan, a non-profit tech workspace that is operating the 3D printer farm for NYCMakesPPE, a group of organizations that joined together to leverage rapid manufacturing technology in the production of PPE. The group says it has delivered about 12,500 face shields to date, in addition to surgical masks and other protective gear.


“I am extremely happy to be a part of this amazing team who has daily been going above and beyond to provide the necessary supplies to aid our frontline workers — from our makers, to the distribution team, couriers, donors, and everyone else who have collaborated to make NYCMAKESPPE a success,” said team member and first-year B Arch student Kedishia Joseph. “I wouldn’t trade this group of talented, generous souls for anything!”


After the face mask headpieces are printed at Hack Manhattan on W. 14th Street using the City College printers, the finished parts are transported to the Fat Cat Fab Lab in the West Village, where the face shields are laser cut. To uphold requirements of social distancing, the actual 3D printing is automated and managed remotely.


Along with the group at City College, teams at five other CUNY colleges — Bronx Community College, Queensborough Community College, LaGuardia Community College, New York City College of Technology and The Graduate Center — have adapted their 3D printers and associated materials to make elements that are used in protective face shields for local hospitals. Face shields have become important in clinical settings as the number of coronavirus cases has surged and health workers require an extra level of protection over face masks. The 3D printing processgenerates complex three-dimensional objects from computer-aided designs.


“In times of crisis, integral New York City institutions like CUNY have a moral imperative and a social responsibility to mobilize their full resources in the service of those who need it most,” said Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. “CUNY is harnessing its powers of innovation to supplement the city’s PPE supply chain and aid the brave health care workers who are putting their lives on the line. There is no greater cause at the moment, and we are proud to stand with New York City and do what we can to help those on the front lines of the war against COVID-19.”