Tom Duong showing a face mask he produced on campus.

Protecting Our Front-Line Workers

In just three days, an interdisciplinary group of faculty, staff, and students worked to fabricate face-shield headbands and other personal protective gear for use by Tennessee medical professionals in the fight against COVID-19.

The project stemmed from an urgent request from Mike Krause, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, to Tennessee universities to help print 10,000 headbands.

In labs across campus, the group fabricated about 1,500 face-shield parts. Another UT team produced hundreds of headbands using 14 commercial-grade 3D printers in the College of Architecture and Design’s Fab Lab.

By the end of May, UT’s team had printed nearly 15,000 pieces. Tom Duong, staff supervisor in the Tickle College of Engineering’s Innovation and Collaboration Studio, had 20 machines printing headbands. “We worked through the night and right up to the deadline to help meet the need for these devices,” said Duong.

This work was coordinated by Uday Vaidya, UT–Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor’s Chair for Advanced Composites Manufacturing and professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering. “The entire UT community and its partners have come together in unprecedented ways,” Vaidya said.

A team of more than a dozen students led by Alex Stiles, doctoral student in energy science and engineering, also contributed to the production of headbands.

Interim Vice Chancellor for Research Matthew Mench said, “People have taken printers home so they can safely continue to print through the night. They are living out the Volunteer spirit to meet this challenge and help the community in a time of need.”

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