Florida Poly turns its 3D printers into a factory for medical PPE

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The University hopes to produce 4,000 face mask components by the end of April.

Florida Polytechnic University will turn its high-tech resources, including its 3D printers, to supplying face masks and medical gear.

In partnership with AdventHealth, the Lakeland university hopes to help with a national shortage of personal protective equipment, or PPE, amid the COVID-19 global pandemic.

“In this time of crisis, we are happy to be able to help because we have the equipment and the facilities to make a difference,” said Dr. Matt Bohm, Florida Poly director of industry engagement and capstone projects.

The shortage has impacted Florida facilities as well. On Tuesday, Orlando Representatives Stephanie Murphy and Darren Soto urged Gov. Ron DeSantis to send more PPE to Central Florida to address local need.

Florida Poly will use 20 of its 3D printers to begin creating a supply of protective face masks pieces, which will be assembled at AdventHealth’s Nicholson Center and distributed to the provider’s locations throughout Central Florida.

The top printers can produce one of two headbands within four to five hours.

University leaders hope to bring another 10 printers online within the next 10 days.

If all goes as planned, the university should be able to produce as many as 4,000 face shield components before the end of April.

“It’s really great to see everybody coming together to try to get some solutions out there,” Bohm said.

This has allowed some students back in the labs for hands-on work with the university.

“The fact that we can now turn to 3D printing when other means of manufacturing cannot keep up is mind-blowing and it finally brings the importance of 3D printing to light,” said Djuan Gayle, a Computer Engineering senior from Miami, with special permission to come on campus.

An Inspector General report released this week says a shortage of PPE represents one of the greatest challenges for the U.S. health care industry as it faces the spread of coronavirus, according to USA Today. A national stockpile has remained largely untapped.

But Florida has fared better than others, ProPublica reports, to the frustration of other states.

Still, a national need for as many as 3.5 million N95 masks continues to strain health care providers everywhere, including in Florida.

In Polk County, where Florida Poly is located, 199 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, as of 5 p.m. Tuesday. Five residents there have died from the illness.

Bohm is part of an eight-person team at Florida Poly now dedicating efforts to making face masks. The campus, which like many is largely closed with in-person classes canceled through the end of the term, will enforce social distancing and facilities sanitized, the university stresses.

“Many of us are even working with people we normally would consider our competitor and doing collaborations that might usually be tense under typical circumstances,” Bohm said.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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