Southwestern College Architect Professors Produce Face Shields

professor with box of face shields
Architecture Professor Eric Johnson holds a box of 3D printer-produced face shields for college staff.

After the abrupt end to face-to-face learning this spring, Southwestern College Architecture Professor Eric Johnson and several other faculty felt the need to help combat the pandemic that affects all of their students and peers.

The faculty have helped by making reusable face masks and shields via 3D printing. Johnson is using three 3D printers from the Architecture Department and Professor Robert Garza is using two 3D printers from Computer Aided Design to make an average of 100 masks a day with their combined efforts.

“I saw a need within the campus community and surrounding communities for PPE (personal protective equipment), and realized that the Architecture Department at Southwestern College had the resources to help,” Johnson said. “By quickly shifting our 3D printers from producing student models, to now printing frames for face shields, we have been working around the clock to see how many we can make.”

These 3D printers–once used at the end of the semester for students’ final projects–have been running 24 hours of the day churning out masks and shields.

3D printer creating face shield
A 3D printer creating the outline of the face shield.
mask created from 3D printer
A completed face shield printed by one of the college’s 3D printers.

Johnson dropped off the first rounds of face masks to the college in April for Southwestern’s essential employees. Since then they have made over 200 masks and shields and distributed them to medical staff at Kaiser, Samahan Health Center, Family Health Centers, San Diego Family Care, San Ysidro Health, Tri-City Medical Center, La Maestra Family Clinics and Palomar Health.

As Southwestern College essential employees were the first to benefit from the donation, Aurora Ayala, the acting director of facilities, operations and planning, was thrilled.

“How wonderful are our staff?” Ayala said, “They reached out to me and asked how they could help. This time really shows how important everyone’s jobs really are and that everyone can bring something to the table, especially when it means coming together to support each other.”

The face shields are a game changer for staff on the front lines. Employees say they feel much more free than when wearing a mask. The shields don’t restrict or put pressure on the face. The shields don’t fog up if one wears corrective lenses. And people can read one’s emotions.

“We have all been working through this current situation, and one thing has become apparent to me,” Johnson said. “The simple gestures like a gift, a handshake, a hug or a smile are so important. I hope this small, simple gesture has a larger impact.”