With the help of a generous contribution from the Tuchman Foundation, Mercer County Community College (MCCC) will manufacture hundreds of face safety shields in its Advanced Manufacturing laboratory to safeguard the health and safety of the medical services professionals combating the spread of COVID-19 in the region.
“Our local heroes are the medical professionals and EMTs who are risking their lives every day. We must do our part to protect them,” said MCCC President Dr. Jianping Wang. “We are a community college. It is our duty to serve our communities, especially in a time like this. We must do all we can, and we know they need the protective gear to keep themselves, and our community, safe.”
Thus far, requests for the face shields have been received from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton, Penn Medicine, Mercer County Office of Emergency Management, Henry J. Austin Health Center, and other organizations that are on the front lines fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic.
MCCC is home to a state-of-the-art Advanced Manufacturing lab, complete with computerized lathes, computer numerical control (CNC) milling machines, and 3-dimensional (3-D) printers. The 3,000-square-foot lab in West Windsor was constructed in 2017 and made possible through the support of Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes and the Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders, with the goal of preparing graduates of the Advanced Manufacturing program for careers in high-tech industry.
Professor Jim Maccariella, coordinator of the Engineering Science and Civil Engineering Technology program, led his team colleagues, professors Harry Bittner and Michael Hanna, to explore the possibility of using 3-D printers to produce face shields. But he notes the process is slow – it takes about two-and-a-half hours to produce a single shield. The initial process enabled the lab to produce 30 pieces, all of which were donated to the Mercer County Office of Emergency Management. But it was obvious that additional production capacity was needed to meet the need of healthcare professionals in the area.
Meanwhile Martin Tuchman, chairman of the Tuchman Foundation, challenged Mercer County Community to find ways to produce face shields to protect medical professionals. Tuchman contributed to equip the college’s 3-D printer lab when it opened in 2017. When he saw the current need for medical safety equipment, he readily offered a solution by providing the funding for materials to produce the units by utilizing the faster, more efficient Advanced Manufacturing equipment.
“When I heard there was a problem acquiring shields, it was described as a manufacturing issue,” Tuchman said. “I recalled that Dr. Wang was on the forefront of creating an advanced, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility at the school, and when this shortage occurred, the first thing I did was call Dr. Wang. She not only responded positively, but within 24 hours had a game plan, a prototype, and a request for orders. We were in business.”
Professor Michael Hanna, coordinator of the Advanced Manufacturing Technology program, then began to reconfigure the Advanced Manufacturing lab to mass produce the face shields. Hanna said it takes about eight minutes to make one shield, in stark contrast to the 2.5 hours to create a single unit with a 3-D printer.
Hanna said he expects to produce 160 shields a day once in full production, a task he will volunteer to fulfill in addition to his duties as a full-time instructor.
“It’s definitely another full time job, but is well worth it to serve the community and save lives,” Hanna said. “In addition, this is an American made product, a local product serving local needs.”
Wang echoed that sentiment, adding that “it is the mission of Mercer County Community College to respond to the needs of our local communities in the best way we can.”