Local teen makes face shields for medical workers with 3D printer

Jack Sloan is using his 3D printer to make face shields to protect medical workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Jack Sloan with his 3D printer that he uses to create the headbands for face shields for medical professionals.

When 14-year-old Jack Sloan first got interested in 3D printing two years ago, he had no idea he would be using it to help combat the shortage of protective gear for medical workers during a pandemic.

After seeing an Instagram post from a 3D printing company using printers to make personal protective equipment (PPE) for doctors and nurses, "I thought, 'Why can't I do that?'" he said.

So, after discovering the non-profit Masks for Docs online, Sloan started producing masks for the organization to distribute. In his first six weeks, he created 75 face shields, each of which takes about 45 minutes to produce on the printer.

After setting up the print job, Sloan, who is Jewish and resides in Northbrook, can do schoolwork in the interim. Then, shortly after, he removes the completed headband piece from the printer and attaches it to clear plastic sheets that he cuts and hole-punches. Each shield provides a plastic layer of protection between a healthcare provider and a COVID-19 patient.

He first became inspired to create face shields when he learned that his uncle, an interventional radiologist working in a hospital in Joliet, was interacting with COVID-19 patients. "I wanted to help keep him safe," Sloan said, "and then I saw the news about how the doctors and nurses don't have equipment and it's causing them to die."

When he informed his uncle about the project, he asked for some shields for his hospital; then Sloan created more. He packages the shields and leaves them in a cardboard box outside his house for a contactless pickup--and then gets started on the next batch.

"I'm making as many as I can," Sloan said. "I don't have a specific [numeric] goal, but I want to keep making them and getting them to as many people as I can until there's no more need for them."

As for why he wanted to volunteer his time and printer, "I'm not the kind of person who likes to leave things up to other people," he said. "I want to make a tangible change myself. I wanted to combine my skills in technology and 3D printing with helping people."

Jack's parents, Heidi and Brad, are very proud of his initiative. "We're extremely proud of Jack, that this is what he's taking his downtime to do," Heidi said. "He's dedicated himself to helping other people. It's been rewarding to see people stopping by and picking up the masks and knowing he's helping people firsthand."

Sloan's project has been featured on the NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt,Full Frontal with Samantha Bee , and in local newspapers. But for him, it's not about getting noticed, but about bringing attention to the necessity for more protective equipment in hospitals.

"The important thing for everyone to know is to just do something to help," he said. "Whether it's 3D printing face shields, sewing masks, or just staying home and isolating, just do what you can to help."

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