DANVERS — A group of faculty, staff and administrators at Essex Tech have been making use of equipment at the school to produce an important piece of protective gear during the COVID-19 pandemic: Face shields.

When the school’s three high-tech 3D printers were idled by the suspension of classes, Mark Lyons of AET, an Essex company that sells equipment for engineering programs — including 3D printers — had an idea. 

Lyons sent Essex Tech and other schools a CAD (computer-aided design) drawing for the headpiece that holds a transparent face shield. 

“We wanted to do what we could during this challenging time to help the first responders and medical professionals who are working tirelessly to keep us all safe and healthy,” Superintendent Heidi Riccio said.

The printers, purchased through a state grant, are normally used by the school’s engineering and manufacturing programs. 

Now, they’re running day and night, operated by a group of school administrators and teachers. 

The group of volunteers includes Riccio, Director of Workforce Development and Adult Education Bonnie Carr, Director of Technology Joe Marino, Director of Career and Technical Education Don Ducharme, Engineering Technology Teacher Ralph Arabian and Culinary Arts/Hospitality Teacher Krisztina Perron. 

They have been taking turns running the machines, which involves several separate processes. 

The headpiece consists of two components that are created separately by the printer, then assembled. Then, a transparent shield is installed in the headpiece. 

The clear shields have been donated by Medtronic, a medical equipment manufacturer, because the printers cannot produce them, Riccio said.

The process of printing and assembling each shield takes up to five hours, but with all three machines running at full capacity, and with shifts of volunteers working around the clock, the school can produce up to 27 shields a day, said Riccio. 

The shields have been donated to Beverly Hospital, Salem Hospital, Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester, Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport  and Lahey Hospital in Peabody, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Baldpate, and the Danvers police and fire departments, as well as a number of medical and dental practices around the North Shore.

Riccio said they are also planning to donate shields to the Essex County sheriff’s department and other police and fire departments in the coming weeks.  

“We’re just going to keep doing them until the need stops,” said Riccio. 

The school has purchased some of the filament required to print the parts but welcomes any public support. 

To donate toward the cost of materials, visit www.gofundme.com/f/1ypaflwrxc?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link-tip&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet

Requests for shields for healthcare workers, first responders and others with a need can be sent to ppe@essextech.net

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis. 

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