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Richmond student makes face shields for doctors

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 2:48 PDT, Tue April 7, 2020

Last Updated: 2:49 PDT, Tue April 7, 2020

A Richmond teen is 3D printing face shields that are being used by doctors all over the US.

Burnett Secondary student Sean Uy’s uncle is a cardiologist in California. Through his uncle, Uy heard about the limited personal protective equipment available in hospitals. 

“I did some research, looking at what designs were out there. I found designs, did some edits, and we’ve been up and running for two weeks now,” says Uy of his 3D printing program, which he runs out of his shed at home.

A Grade 12 student, Uy has been accepted into BCIT’s aerospace program. He says he thrives while working with his hands, rather than through a traditional classroom lecture setting.

He considers 3D printing a lifelong hobby, calling it “limitless.”

“We bought the 3D printer because I wanted to learn how to 3D model,” says Uy. “I’m on the school robotics team and we need a bunch of products custom designed and 3D printed.”

He says it’s easier to design and print custom parts rather than going through a traditional manufacturing process.

“I can test things, see things that work and things that don’t work,” Uy says of his 3D printer. 

Uy has nearly used up his original supply of 3D printing materials, but family friends have offered donations and sponsor materials. This allows Uy to offer his face shields to hospitals for free—they just pay for the cost of the shipping label.

Now, his face shields are being used in many cities, including New York, Sacramento, Houston, Dallas, Seattle and Los Angeles. Before boxes are shipped, they are sanitized with a special UV wavelength to ensure they are safe for use.

“We put a note in the box to make sure that the hospital sanitizes it again when it gets there,” says Uy. His equipment can be sanitized with UV light or in an alcohol bath—but if it is sanitized with heat, it will melt.

Uy gets up twice in the night to reload his 3D printers, keeping them working constantly. He is part of an international 3D printing community on Facebook, and says people all over the world are collaborating on the project.

“In our group, they did a tally and we’ve sent over a million of these products all over the US,” Uy says.

He hopes this initiative will change people’s minds about the possibilities of 3D printing.

“This technology is growing really quickly. It’s clear that 3D printing has made a huge difference,” he says.

While he says his personal contribution has been small, he knows what he’s doing is important.

“As for how long I’m going to be doing this, really as long as I can, as long as I have materials. I know the demand will always be there,” says Uy. “We’re never going to be able to make enough, that’s for sure.”

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