WashU Maker Task Force

Posted by Liam Otten April 9, 2020


Instructional technician Matthew Branham fabricates face shield parts in Weil Hall's Caleres Fabrication Studio. Photos: Joe Angeles.

Read more: Maker Task Force works to protect front-line health-care workers>>

Faculty and staff from the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis are teaming up with colleagues from the Washington University School of Medicine, the McKelvey School of Engineering, and BJC HealthCare to help address the surging demand for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

The WashU Maker Task Force aims to support patients and front-line medical staff by designing, prototyping, and testing potential PPE solutions—and coordinating their manufacture with local makers and fabricators.

The Maker Task Force is divided into nearly a dozen groups, each of which is focused on sourcing, testing, and producing critical equipment, from masks and face shields to ventilator parts, sanitation wipes, and protective gowns. As the COVID-19 crisis has progressed, one of the greatest limiting factors has been the availability of materials to produce fully effective PPE. Innovative designs have been developed and rigorously tested over the past few weeks using available material stock while also considering the specific local manufacturing capabilities.

Associate professor Mary Ruppert-Stroescu, coordinator of fashion design, contributes expertise in textile selection, testing, pricing, sourcing and project management to the Maker Task Force. She also leads the section focused on medical gowns. In this capacity, she has worked with the BJC Supply Chain department and local manufacturers to design, test, and begin large-scale manufacturing—up to 10,000 pieces per day—of isolation gowns made from waterproof material. These gowns are distinct from traditional surgical gowns. Sleeves include thumb-holes, which allow them to be pulled into the cuff of the wearer’s gloves, and the gowns are designed to be simply torn away from the body, minimizing the chances of secondary contamination.

In addition, Ruppert-Stroescu recently helped source sanitary wipes for BJC from St. Louis-based Mednick Riverbend. With Wyly Brown, assistant professor of architecture, she has initiated a group within the Sam Fox School to obtain medical-quality masks through the use of vacuum molding.

Brown, along with Sam Fox School facilities manager Leland Orvis and instructional technician Matthew Branham, is helping to coordinate production printing and parts cutting for face shields designed by the McKelvey School’s Ruth Okamoto and Charlotte Guertler. Associate professor Catalina Freixas is working with the Graduate Architecture Council to identify students with home 3D-printing capacity.

Heather Corcoran, the Halsey C. Ives Professor and interim dean of University College, and Enrique Von Rohr, senior lecturer in communication design and Sam Fox School director of Research & Technology, are investigating ways to use data visualization and communication design to support PPE efforts.

The Maker Task Force also is working with a group called Face Shield Initiative STL. This group, based out of MADE STL, a community maker space, works with community makers who 3D print face-shield components.

Learn more at engineering.wustl.edu/news/Pages/McKelvey-Engineering-staff-creating-face-shields-for-health-care-workers.aspx.

Associate professor Mary Ruppert-Stroescu models one of the isolation gowns made from waterproof material.

Fabrication video by Matthew Branham.