Members of Grizzlies Racing, Oakland University’s Formula SAE collegiate chapter, are usually known for building their own race car and racing it against other collegiate chapters from around the world.

But amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve shifted gears and are now racing to create dozens of 3D-printed face shields for frontline health professionals.

“We were looking for ways to get involved and help in any way we could after the lockdown started,” said David Ingermann, the chapter’s vice president and head of business and marketing. “We found the files to print these protective shields online and figured it’d be an excellent way to help.”

To date, they’ve donated more than 250 face shields to frontline workers at Beaumont and Ascension Providence Rochester hospitals, with more on the way. The shields are mass produced using an open-source digital design for 3D printing called Mercy Face Shield. They are made of inexpensive materials and are simple to put together: a 3D-printed headband is attached to a clear plastic report cover.

“To assemble the shields, we just hole-punch and pop into place the plastic report covers that are being used to make the shield,” Ingermann explained. “The head band is the part that we are printing, and it’s made out of a material called PLA filament.”

The team typically uses 3D printing to produce molds for carbon fiber auto parts such as small wings and electronic housings, Ingermann explained. Now they’re steering their ingenuity toward maximizing shield production.

“We’ve reduced our initial print time by almost 80 percent, meaning we should be able to produce about 120 units per week going forward,” Ingermann said. “The knowledge and skills students have learned in using this technology for the production of carbon fiber molds has definitely played a major role in reducing the print times and producing higher quality shields.”