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Potsdam Prepared: Fall 2021 Updates

3D Printing to Fight COVID-19

Physics Professor Uses 3D Printers to Make Face Shields for Local Healthcare Workers

 As the world faces a pandemic of enormous proportions, healthcare workers are struggling with shortages of safety essentials, such as personal protective equipment (PPE).  Disruption of manufacturing supply chains along with unprecedented increases in demand, have led to chronic PPE shortages at many medical centers across the nation. Dr. Lily Li, an associate professor and chair of the Department of Physics, has responded. To meet the critical need, she has been utilizing the department’s 3D printers—a manufacturing technology she has introduced to her students in recent years.

“I wanted to contribute to the battle against the COVID-19 virus and decided 3D printing could provide me with the ability to manufacture face shields that protect our brave healthcare professionals and first responders.  Not only does this endeavor fill a critical healthcare need, but it also provides our students with a concrete example of a real life application of this novel manufacturing technology,” Li said.

The face shields consist of 3D printed headbands, which are then fastened to transparent sheets of plastic.  The headband itself is printed using a thermoplastic polymer and the face shield can then be easily assembled using commonly available office supplies.  Currently, 3D printers are not as well-suited for mass production, and often used to make prototypes and limited custom runs of parts. 

The Department of Physics has pioneered STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) initiatives at SUNY Potsdam involving programs that encompass critical thinking and collaborative problem solving—important skills for students’ future career success. In recent years, the department has successfully introduced a number of cutting edge technology courses, including drone technology and 3D printing, as components of their STEAM curriculum.

“SUNY Potsdam integrates 3D technology into STEAM education so as to challenge and motivate students to think creatively as they design, build and prototype scientific and artistic models,” Li said.

To learn more about the Department of Physics, visit: