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Eau Claire man makes face shields for local hospitals

(WEAU)
Published: Apr. 4, 2020 at 5:22 PM CDT
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Hospitals nation-wide are facing a shortage of personal protection equipment, potentially putting doctors and nurses in danger of contracting COVID-19 at work. Thanks to one man's initiative and a 3D printer, local hospitals have another option for PPE.

When Ben Holmen of Eau Claire heard about hospitals facing a shortage of protective equipment, he couldn't help but think of his family members who work in health care. He then got to work, trying to find a solution to the shortage.

“I heard about makers printing PPE on their own 3D printers and I realized I could do the same. I printed the first one and sent it to a family member who said, 'Yes, we could use that right away,'” Holmen said. “I sensed there was some urgency and I started printing as many as I could.”

Holmen said he made his first batch of face shields last Thursday. Now, more than 20 people have stepped up to help him out.

“We have individual hobbyist, we have university representatives, hospital representatives involved in this planning and coordination process,” Holmen said. “Most of the people printing are average people with a printer in their home and interested in helping out.”

Each shield takes about two hours to make. According to Holmen, they can make between 100 and 150 face shields per day. The shields protect doctors and nurses who have to be in close-proximity to patients.

“The primary function of a face shield like this is to protect from droplets when someone coughs or are being intubated.”

Marshfield Clinic Health System nurse Genevieve Kragness said the shields offer her a better sense of protection when she goes to work.

“I well up with tears thinking about it because, having the confidence going into this front line job that I have and feeling protected is very important. I want to be able to serve for the long-term,” she said. “Having the appropriate PPE to continue caring for patients on the front-line is a number one priority as we face this crisis.”

Holmen says while this shields are not a permanent fix, it buys health-care professionals time.

“These 3D printed masks are a stop-gap measure until proper, traditional, local manufacturing can take this on and produce thousands a day instead of dozens a day,” he said. “We see this as a short-term effort, but in that short-term we need as many people printing as possible.”

Holmen said he takes pride in knowing that something he made is being used to protect health care professionals. If you or someone you know has a 3D printer and would like to help out,