The Aachen Shield - a Makeshift Face Shield for Medical Personnel Reaches Production Readiness in Record Time

29/04/2020
A man and a woman working on a face shield Copyright: Peter Winandy

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Throughout Germany, people are currently working to produce urgently needed equipment in the fight against the corona pandemic. Under the tagline “fightcorona.ac,” one such initiative was also launched in Aachen. One of its aims is the production of a makeshift visor for medical personnel with high patient contact. Up to 1,500 face shields can now be produced at RWTH Aachen University per day. “This is rapid prototyping in perfection: Using 3D printing and similar processes, a prototype can be produced from a virtual 3D model, tested, and the design directly modified within a few hours,” says RWTH professor Jan Borchers, initiator of the fightcorona.ac initiative.

The participating Aachen technology companies, the RWTH scientists, as well as the other involved parties, did not want to print any 3D designs found online, as these might not meet the requirements of medical personnel. They instead sought out doctors from Uniklinik RWTH Aachen and Luisenhospital Aachen to get their input. “In the morning, we gave prototypes to the two hospitals for testing, in the afternoon, we already got feedback, and in the evening, we revised our 3D design. Overnight this was 3D-printed by the local community, so the next morning, the revised version could already be tested. This is how we optimized our Aachen Shield in just two weeks,” reported Borchers, head of the Media Computing Group at RWTH and Fab Lab Aachen. “Especially thanks to the commitment of the Aachen startups Laserkatze and nevisQ, the Aachen Shield, in these two weeks, had been developed to the point that our test persons in the hospitals wanted to use it; and they rated it positively. The Institute for Plastics Processing then enabled serial production by injection molding in just a few days. By now, we have supplied the University Hospital as well as many other hospitals, doctors’ practices, and emergency services in the region with the Aachen Shield.”

The teams of fightcorona.ac collaborate via slack workspace online. Around 100 scientists, startups, established companies from the field of rapid prototyping, but also many private individuals who invest their time and technical expertise as so-called makers are now active there. “Without this networking, we would never have achieved such good results so quickly. That is the real benefit of such regional initiatives: You know each other, you know what everyone can achieve, and some people are only enticed to participate because of the local approach,”
Borchers analyses. He adds: “Of course, like all projects created through our initiative, this shield is not a medically tested or certified product. It can only supplement existing protective equipment. However, we hope that other hospitals will also be interested in our product and that we will be able to help out on a supra-regional level.”

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RWTH professor Jan Borchers and doctoral student Anke Brocker working on a face shield.