We are almost ready to make a lot of face shields!

The employees at Compumold worked through the weekend and some people stayed late to make sure they completed the mold as soon as possible. They delivered it to us more than a week ahead of schedule. This is a steel mold, which is more complicated to make than an aluminum one, so this turnaround has been extremely fast.

Our mold is ready!

The mold for injection molding of the frames for the face shields is ready.

Why does this matter, you ask?

Because with injection molding, we are going to be able put a lot more shields onto the faces of our medical workers in the Milwaukee area as they fight coronavirus. We are going to be able to save more lives.

We have been cutting the frames one by one on Tom Gondek’s CNC router, which is not a bad way to do things, but it’s slow. And each one of these frames has to be washed two times, once in water, once in alcohol. By hand. Which is also slow.

Frames after the initial washing at Tom’s shop.

As of April 15, we have requests for almost 4,000 face shields in the queue.

We can produce about 200-500 frames per day with the CNC router.

But with our new process – with injection molding – we will be able to quadruple production, making up to 2,000 frames per day.

And the frames made by injection molding do not need to be cleaned even once, so the overall process will be a lot faster.

I spent yesterday afternoon with Alden and Chris cleaning frames. It’s a tedious, slow process.

You dip the frames, two at a time, into a bath of alcohol water. (Which, BTW, makes your hands really cold.)

You let them sit on one side for five seconds, then you turn them and let them sit on the other side for five seconds.

Then you lift them out, let them drain, carry them to a drying rack (of which we have limited capacity), and hang them. They have to be completely dry for packaging.

Chris is cleaning frames. But this is not an efficient process.

This is not the best way to ship a lot of shields. Not when you have a backlog of 4,000.

Jeff, our injection molder, has already picked up the mold in Phillips and taken it back to his machines in Medford. He will have samples for us today.

Stay tuned!

Shields and Masks – Week One(ish)

We’ve got a progress report on our MMS Face Shield project. We started cutting frames for face shield about a week ago in an effort to fill the gap in the supply of PPE going to hospitals and health care clinics in the Milwaukee area. Our total as of Friday was about 2,000 frames for face shields cut on the CNC routers we have access to at ABC Woodworking.

We’re cutting more each day, and plan to add an additional two spindles to the gantry of the primary CNC router so it can cut three at one time. Meanwhile our friends at KAPCO Metal Stamping are able to stamp out 20,000 of the clear front shield parts to go with the frames.

Our GoFundMe campaign has raised over $12,000 so far, and we should be doing injection molding of the frames in less than two weeks. That will do two things: dramatically speed up the process of creating face shields, and reduce the cost of material per shield. (We are estimating close to 1/10 the cost of plastic used in the injection molded version.) With the ability to increase volume, we hope to expand beyond front line medical workers if their needs are met, and examine providing face shields to essential workers as well and investigate reaching outside the Milwaukee area. (We’ve already gotten requests from friends in other states as well.)

Now, if the face shield market gets completely saturated and we don’t need as many (which is a good thing!) we’ll be looking at what else we can do. Speaking of diversifying, we’ve also got a group of members who are sewing masks. Dan and Hapto put together 130 mask kits to distribute to members (in a non-contact fashion) and over 80 masks have been produced so far. There’s a lot of great sewn mask making efforts in our area, but it’s great to see our members jumping in as well.

One last update: Much of what we are doing started in the Open Source COVID19 Medical Supplies group, and while we haven’t been as active as we’ve wanted to (due to making face shields) there is now a local effort, the Open Source COVID19 Medical Supplies – Milwaukee group which a few of our members are involved in. Hopefully they’ll be able to steer us towards the best practices and efforts of the larger group. (And if you can help, please join in!)

We’ll do our best to keep you up to date with progress on this project as we move forward. As we’ve said among the group, we can’t wait to put ourselves out of the face shield making business, but as long as there’s a need to keep people safe that isn’t being fulfilled, we’ll keep doing it.

Want to help?

First Shields are Out!

We’ve delivered face shields! Medical professionals are now using these in the field, and we’re happy to see this photo they sent us.

We’re working on ways to speed up production, still exploring new partners to help out, and doing our best to keep our spirits high… and this helps a lot.

Want to help?

Face Shield Files Available

We’re still learning and refining things, but we’ve had a number of people ask about the files… so here are the files!


They are on GitHub, you can download them, you can fork them, you can share them with others. Since we started with the 3DVerkstan design we are also using a Creative Commons BY-SA license. Please respect that, we want to grow the world of Open Source Medical Supplies.

If you have improvements or suggestions or feedback, we’d love to hear it. Email covid19help [at] milwaukeemakerspace.org

We’ve already had people suggest some improvements, or ask why we are doing things a specific way, so we’re hoping we can all develop better practices through dialog. Also, expect the GitHub repo to change/improve as we learn more. (There’s a cleaning guide for the shields coming soon!)

Any changes to the files should maintain the peg spacing so that shields fit properly into the pegs (at least on our end) as we’re getting thousands of those stamped out right now, and it’s sort of a standard at this point…

Again, share these, try these, use these… Let’s keep fighting COVID-19 and doing all we can to help medical professionals keep themselves (and us) safe!

Want to help?

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.