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COVID-19 Heroes: Innovative Airmen help ‘shield’ from pandemic

An Airman opens the cover to a 3D printer.

Tech. Sgt. Matthew J. Bobbitt, 57th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron resource advisor, opens the cover to a Fusion 3 F410 3D printer on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, March 30, 2020. Bobbitt plans to produce 400 face shields so they can be provided to the 99th Medical Group as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)

A 3D printer produces a face shield.

Airmen assigned to the 57th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron use a 3D printer to produce face shields on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, March 30, 2020. The face shields are designed to protect the entire face from infectious airborne particles, substantially reducing the possibility of contamination. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)

An Airman works on face shield software on a computer.

Master Sgt. Rickey Kelly, 57th Aircraft Maintenance Unit squadron programs section chief, works on face shield software provided by the National Institute of Health (NIH) on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, March 30, 2020. The face shields are created using a plan the NIH published to their website that can be downloaded and utilized by anyone who has access to a 3D printer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)

A 3D printer produces a face mask.

Airmen assigned to the 57th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron use a 3D printer to produce face shields on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, March 30, 2020. The 57th AMXS Airmen plan to produce 400 face shields so they can be provided to the 99th Medical Group as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)

A completed 3D printed face shield sits on top of a 3D printer.

Airmen assigned to the 57th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron us a 3D printer to produce face shields on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, March 30, 2020. The printer is normally used to replicate aircraft parts to as part of aircraft maintenance training, but is currently being used create face shields for the 99th Medical Group as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. --

The 57th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (AMXS) started producing face shields March 30 to help the 99th Medical Group (MDG) combat COVID-19.

Tech. Sgt. Matthew J. Bobbitt, is using four simple objects: a 3D printer, transparency film, rubber bands and clips, costing roughly $4 to print each face shield for healthcare workers on base.          

“Our ability to overcome an adversary, such as COVID-19, is just like any other adversary,” said Bobbitt, a 57th AMXS resource advisor. “We have to adapt and overcome together to win.”

Bobbitt and his team came up with the idea while brainstorming ways to help fight COVID-19.

“The question came up of what we [in the Maintenance Group] can do to be able to help, so I began researching and found that face shields are the most effective personal protective equipment that can be currently produced,” said Bobbitt.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), face shields guard the entire face from infectious airborne particles, substantially reducing the possibility of contamination.

Bobbitt found a plan for face shields on the NIH website, which allows anyone to download the software to produce the face shields.

He is manufacturing the face shields using a 3D printer, which is typically used to build items for aircraft maintenance, such as training aids or small parts.

One batch of three face shields can be produced every three hours with little supervision.

“The process to produce the face shields is very simple,” said Bobbitt. “We 3D print the shield’s headband, attach clear plastic transparency to the head band and then attach the strap that holds the face shield to the wearer’s head.”

So far, Bobbitt and his team have produced more than forty-five 3D printed face shield headbands and are aiming to create 400 total.

“Teamwork is very important during times like these because it allows us to share capabilities between various units to support each other to accomplish the mission,” said Bobbitt. “The 99th Medical Group supports us to keep aircraft flying, so it is our turn to support them when they need it most.”

To print the face shields yourself, you can find the NIH face shield plan at https://3dprint.nih.gov/discover/3dpx-013238.

Editor's Note: This is the second installment in a five-part series highlighting Nellis heroes sustaining operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.