News: Collaboration with Faculty of Engineering results in protective face shields for health care workers

a stack of face shields in the machine shop at Western UniversityA collaboration between the Faculty of Engineering and Schulich Medicine & Dentistry has led to the production of low-cost, substantively effective medical face shields that could be in hospitals for healthcare workers (HCW) within days if not hours.

Face shields are vitally important to the global fight against COVID-19 as they extend the duration of surgical masks used by HCW interacting with at-risk patients and they also help prevent potential spreading of the virus by HCW to others in the hospital environment.

The advanced manufacturing team at University Machine Services (UMS) – an ancillary service based in Western Engineering – is shearing and forming polycarbonate (PETG) to create the shield and attaching Velcro fasteners, which were designed and 3D-printed by the Western Physics and Astronomy Machine Shop, to the completed masks to allow for adjustable head placement.

UMS traditionally provides services like lab-to-pilot scale laboratory equipment, computer numerical control (CNC) machining and 3D-modelling and printing (additive manufacturing) to Western faculty and staff, London Health Sciences Centre hospitals and other industry clients but when Western Provost Andrew Hrymak asked UMS manager Clayton Cook if his team could manufacture medical face shields, they didn’t hesitate flipping the switch.

Engineering faculty member delivers a stack of faceshieldsBefore becoming Western’s Provost, Hrymak served as dean of Western Engineering so he knows Cook and his team’s work well. Following a request from Kathryn Hibbert, Acting Dean of Western’s Faculty of Education, Hrymak reached out to Cook on Saturday, March 21 and UMS had a first prototype ready to go on Monday, March 23.

“A few of our team members have spouses working at the hospital, so this really hit close to home. This wasn’t a job we had to do but when I mentioned it (to the team), everyone stepped up,” said Cook. “Western is an excellent place to work and these are great jobs. Now, the hospital needs us and Western is letting us get to work. It feels great to do our part.”

Cook collaborated with Western Engineering Dean Ken Coley and Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry senior academic and clinical leadership for final production approvals and to ensure the medical face shield met hospital standards.

Currently, Cook estimates he and his UMS team could manufacture 200-300 medical face shields a day but a number of London manufacturers including General Dynamics Land Systems Canada – a global aerospace and defence company – have already offered to assist Western with production as international demand increases every day.

The Ontario Advanced Manufacturing Consortium (AMC) is supporting this project. Hospitals and other health care providers looking to order medical face shields should contact Lee Smithson, AMC Western’s Business Development Lead at