BENNINGTON — Since Monday, Adam Cannistraci has been spending about six hours a day making face shields for the local hospital. He can produce a dozen pieces each day, using six 3D printers at the Southwest Vermont Career Development Center.
Before the state ordered schools to temporarily close because of the novel coronavirus outbreak, the 27-year-old Woodford resident was teaching SVCDC students about the manufacturing process. After the technical education center shut its doors March 16, an administrator received an email from a community member who suggested SVCDC should create personal protective equipment for health care providers.
Hospitals handling coronavirus cases are facing a dwindling supply of personal protective equipment — such as gloves, face masks and isolation gowns. But Cannistraci was initially skeptical they would want what he described as "makeshift" equipment.
He got in touch with Southwestern Vermont Medical Center about providing the Bennington hospital with face shields, and got a positive reply. "They said, 'Yeah, we'll take whatever you can give us,'" Cannistraci said in a phone interview.
That same day, Monday, he immediately got to work on a design and the materials he would need for production. The shields would be made up of two 3D-printed parts: a visor and a webbing slide to hold the head strap in place. 3D printing is a process of making three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file using a 3D printing machine.
His one-man operation went into full production on Wednesday.
The most difficult part of the process, Cannistraci said, was finding materials that would serve his purpose and at the same time would be readily available.
He decided to fashion the shields out of polylactic acid, a biodegradable and renewable type of plastic. "These are disposable masks, so we don't want to make them out of anything that's polluting," he said.
And he chose elastic nylon bands to secure the face shield to the user's head.
The materials for each face shield cost $1.85 altogether. As for labor, Cannistraci is still working at SVCDC every day, so his time is paid by the education center.
SVCDC doesn't intend to charge Southwestern Vermont Medical Center for the face shields, seeing it as a way to give back. The hospital has provided students with oppportunities to enhance their education, such as interships and job shadowing, said Mike Lawler, superintendent of the Southwest Vermont Regional Technical School District.
"During this time of need, we are happy to help where we can," Lawler said in an email.
Cannistraci plans to make his first delivery of 60 face shields to the hospital on Tuesday.
SVMC spokeswoman Ashley Jowett told the Banner the hospital would "gratefully accept what they have to offer."
Once students return to school, Cannistraci's operation should see a little expansion. Three of his students, who are between the ages of 16 and 18, volunteered to help make the face shields.
Cannistraci has also offered the equipment to other hospitals in the area, and is waiting to hear back.
"As long as they're willing to take them, we'll make them," he said.
Contact Tiffany Tan at firstname.lastname@example.org, @tiffgtan on Twitter or 802-447-7567 ext. 122.