UCLA Engineers Step Up to Help Health Care Workers

Mar 31, 2020

By UCLA Samueli Newsroom

With a deluge of patients suffering from COVID-19 expected to flood hospitals in the very near future, UCLA engineers are part of a quickly growing team working to build up supplies of personal protective equipment for health care workers.

Bioengineering professor Jacob Schmidt has started to manufacture surgical face shields at the UCLA Innovation Lab — the “makerspace” on the first and second floors of UCLA Samueli School of Engineering’s Boelter Hall.  Under normal circumstances, the lab would be teeming with students using its 3D printers, laser cutters and other tools on class projects as well as ideas of their own creation.

The head frames of the face shields are 3D-printed and the shields are laser-cut from sheets of clear plastic. Schmidt is working with Doug Daniels, director of the Lux Labs at the UCLA Library, which also offers 3D printing and other creative technologies. They are part of a larger team across the UCLA campus, along with industry partners who have been contacted to help in the effort.

Face Shields
Laser-cut face shield (L) and 3D-printed model (R) — Jacob Schmidt/UCLA Samueli

“Makerspaces are places where you can do prototyping and small-batch production very rapidly and inexpensively,” said Schmidt, who supervises the space. “These qualities are in high demand right now, as we are being forced to come up with improvised solutions to address the lack of traditional equipment and devices.”

With the current prototype, the lab can already produce 100 shields a day, which have been distributed for testing and use at UCLA and other local hospitals. The team is also working on designs that only involve laser-cutting which could increase the rate of production to more than 1,000 per day at the makerspace alone in Boelter Hall. Five hundred of these shields are expected to ship to UCLA this Friday.

“I am so proud of the rapid response from our entire UCLA Samueli community during this public health crisis,” said Jayathi Murthy, Ronald and Valerie Sugar Dean of Engineering. “As problem solvers at heart, we want to apply our knowledge to addressing the shortage of medical supplies at this critical moment. This is our charge and the reason why we became engineers.

“We are also working closely with our colleagues at UCLA Health, the David Geffen School of Medicine and research groups across the engineering school,” she said. “Together, we hope to find a solution to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and restore the health of our community.”

In order to help support the important work of Jacob Schmidt and other UCLA Samueli faculty members involved in similar efforts, please consider a gift to the school’s Problem Solvers Fund.  Your generosity can help provide much needed supplies and equipment for our courageous frontline health care workers who risk their lives daily to protect the public.

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