Face Shield Materials & Process

When the push to make face shields started we saw a lot of makerspaces and individuals fire up the 3D printers as tons of designs started showing up online. If you’ve got a 3D printer, by all means, help out by making things… they aren’t the fastest method, but they are nice in that it’s “hit print and walk away” to some degree. And filament? There are a lot of rolls of filament available. (Got access to 10 or 20 or 50 machines in a print farm? Get them running!)

We then saw other people start using laser cutters, which tend to be a lot faster than 3D printers, and PETG was the material of choice, until it ran out. We know a guy who used all the PETG he could source locally, then drove 16 hours to buy more, and at this point there are people who just cannot buy PETG to feed into their laser cutters. (If you can find PETG, keep going, fire those lasers!)

So we opted to use 1/4″ sheets of HDPE (high-density polyethylene) as our visor material. It machines really well and on a large CNC they go pretty fast. You might be familiar with HDPE if you own a plastic cutting board. It’s great because it can be easily cleaned and disinfected, unlike things that are 3D printed.

We’ve got two CNC machines running at a shop one of our members runs. (Milwaukee Makerspace is not open, we are not using the CNC machines there.) We are running with very few people, working a safe distance from each other. The process involves two replaceable spoilboards so you can prep one by screwing down the material, loading it onto the CNC and running it while you spend time unscrewing the cut material from the other one.

The other part of the face shield is the front part, the shield that is in front of your face. Clear semi-rigid vinyl was available so we got that. It cannot be laser cut (well, sort of) so we looked into getting a steel rule die made so we could cut them easily and quickly. In our quest to get a die made we talked to KAPCO Metal Stamping and they offered to just stamp them out for us. Amazing! We don’t have a clicker press and while some friends offered use of their equipment for automated loading and cutting, KAPCO can do a huge volume quickly and safely.

As long as the supply of HDPE and clear vinyl holds out, we’ll keep going with this process. If we can’t source those materials we’ll move on to something else. It’s probably a good idea to start making a list of other materials that could work, or alternative processes for making.

First Batch of PPE Face Shield Frames

Here are some photos of face mask production by the Milwaukee Makerspace team’s efforts to produce face shields.

Here are some photos of the process happening at the shop one of our members runs. (We have very minimal people volunteering at the same time and they are keeping a distance from each other and being safe.)

We want to keep going! We’ve got volunteers, we’ve got machines, what we need is more material to keep them busy. If you want to help, we are accepting monetary donations through GoFundMe to help acquire the raw materials we need.


We need HDPE for the visor and clear vinyl for the shields. We’ve got enough to get started, but may run out as early as next week depending on how fast things go.

All face shields are being donated to local area hospitals we are working with, and Milwaukee Makerspace is a 501(c)3 non-profit all-volunteer run organization. We just want to help. Help us help others if you can. Thanks!

PPE for Milwaukee

We’re all living with the effects of COVID-19 and while we’ve temporarily closed Milwaukee Makerspace, we could not sit idly by while our community was in need.

There is an extreme shortage of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for medical professionals. The people who keep us healthy and safe are currently unable to keep themselves safe. To combat this problem, the global maker community is creating and sharing PPE solutions around the world.

We have joined that effort. A few of our members have developed a face shield based on an existing popular design (the 3DVerskstan) but with modifications to the visor piece to make it easy to create on a CNC machine instead of 3D printing or laser cutting. We enter production this week and hope to make at least 1,000 face shields by Monday, April 6, 2020. (And then more to follow.)

We had planned to use a drag knife to cut out the clear face shield part, but then decided stamping them out with a die would be faster. As we talked to local companies, a few offered not only to create the die but also to stamp out thousands of face shields. This amazing donation is going to be a huge help.

So what’s next? Well, Milwaukee Makerspace is a 501(c)3 organization, all volunteer run, and we’ve got a few people who are doing a lot of work. Members are donating their expertise, machines, and materials, and some of them are donating their own money to this cause.

As an organization, we’ve also pledged a portion of our budget to this project, even though we’ve closed the space and suspended dues from members. We may be applying for grants to help us provide these PPE donations to local hospitals and clinics (and yes, we’ve already got a list of recipients we are working with.)

We have also set up a GoFundMe page to ask for donations from the Milwaukee community for the raw materials. Please share this page with your friends.

We are all volunteers trying to help our community. (At least three of our members were infected with COVID-19. Two of them had to be hospitalized.) This virus is affecting everyone, so we’ve all got to pitch in and help.

We hope our contribution will allow the medical staff of our hospitals to be safe.

Expect more updates soon… We’re all working as fast as we can, but we do want to share our progress on this as time allows.

Pictured above is our first prototype, which was a two-piece design to allow for tightly nesting the pieces for cutting. In discussion with one of the hospitals they did not want any metal hardware attaching two pieces so we’re switching to a one piece design.

No Meeting December 24th or December 31st

When people ask about visiting Milwaukee Makerspace we say “Come on down! Any Tuesday night at 7pm!” but sometimes we add “unless it’s a holiday” and with December here we’ve got two holidays falling on Tuesdays, so Tuesday, December 24th, 2019 and Tuesday, December 31st, 2019 we will not have our regular open nights.

So don’t come. Don’t come for the meeting, don’t come for the tour, don’t come to sign up as a new member. Everyone who helps run Milwaukee Makerspace is a volunteer, and they’re getting a break for two weeks. (Please, thank them for all the extra work they do!)

If you are already a member, feel free to come in! Your key gets you 24/7 access to the space, and you can work on your projects as usual, hang out with other members, or just take a break from the holiday madness. Cool? Yeah.

A New RepRap

I built my first RepRap 3D Printer in 2011/2012 after using a MakerBot CupCake CNC at the Makerspace a few years earlier. It worked well until it broke, then I fixed it, and it broke again, and over and over and eventually I bought a new 3D Printer, and my old RepRap sat mostly unused because it wasn’t a very good machine. So earlier this year I decided to disassemble it and start over, but this time I wanted to follow a few methods that Mark used for Son of MegaMax and for Ultra MegaMax Dominator. Also, he has a lot of 40mm extrusion on hand. ;)

I started by designing things in OpenSCAD and then started building once I got enough pieces in place. It’s actually starting to look like a RepRap. Since I’ve only built printers from kits or instructions someone else created, this is the first 3D Printer I’ve actually designed. There are a lot of challenges, but I find it enjoyable. I hope to have things moving within the next few months. (I’m in no big hurry, as I have twelve other projects I’m working on simultaneously!)

If you want to follow along, I occasionally post in-progress photos on Instagram, and you can check out the reprap category on my blog.