Dallas' Better Block Foundation Fabricating Face Shields for Medical Use

It started as a text chain between a couple of doctors and Better Block Foundation: A request for face shields. Less than a week later, they're being produced.

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The Better Block Foundation in Dallas joined the COVID-19 fight this week. It started fabricating medical face shields using 3D printer plans online that they've adapted for more efficient production.

"The problem is it takes about three and a half hours for one of these to be made," Better Block Architectural Designer Dylan Adams said, referring to the 3D printer. Adams adapted the 3D plans to fabricate shields on a CNC (Computer Numeric Conrol) router. "So we can dramatically increase our rate of production."

Adams said the CNC can produce about 100 shield templates an hour.

"I'm making medical face masks," Better Block Project Manager Kristin Leiber said as she assembled the pieces of the mask in the office. It includes the fabricated headband, a plastic shield, styrofoam tubing from Home Depot for cushion, and a hair tie on the ends to hold it in place. "This is some real MacGyver stuff," Leiber laughed.

Usually, Better Block makes furniture and installations for neighborhoods to bring the community together. At the request of some local doctors, they adapted to help.

"Last week we were making fruit stands for local restaurants and businesses," Adams said. "Now we're making medical supply equipment."

"Everyone feels really helpless at a time like this," Leiber said. "Being able to come to a very small office with machinery and equipment and not have a lot of touchpoints with other people, but be able to make things that will go out and touch people in a way we want to help, that's what's really impactful."

Prototypes are being tested by about 10 medical staff at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. Better Block plans to use their feedback to tweak their design.

"I think it's pretty cool," Adams said. "I hope that a lot of designers and makers can download this and adapt it to their own use."

The Better Block Foundation made its CNC medical face shield plans open-source, so anyone in the world can access them and make them. They have a dozen locations in North Texas on standby to help make them if there is a surge in demand.

"Help change what we can change," Adams said. "And help make things happen."

You can access Better Block Foundation's open-source face shield plans here.

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