Chesterton Tribune



Steelworker 3D printing PPE for hospital donations needed

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As a steelworker at the ArcelorMittal facility in Burns Harbor, Andrew Taylor knows a little something about personal protection equipment.

“Usually for me it’s a hard hat, steel toe boots, safety glasses, or gloves to keep me from injury,” he says. “PPE used in the medical field is just as important.”

Which is why, as hospitals began burning through their supplies of PPE like kindling, Taylor got the idea of using his experience in 3D-printing, acquired as a hobbyist, to produce face shields for the healthcare workers at Porter Regional Hospital. “Face shields are basically the first line of defense against the virus, which is why it’s important they’re made available quickly for everyone, because my understanding is they don’t have enough for everyone,” Taylor says. "The community around 3D-printing has really stepped up as a whole and is able to supplement the short supply in the short term while the big companies are struggling to keep up with the high demand.”

In fact, the good folks in the trenches at PRH couldn’t have been happier to hear from Taylor. “When I reached out to Porter Regional Hospital I was met with not only gratitude but a bit of desperation, as I found out the nurses and others working on the front lines were making face shields at home with whatever they could find,” Taylor says. “They were also re-using different PPE which would normally be discarded.”

Accordingly, Taylor and PRH worked together on a design for a face shield which would do what it’s supposed to do, safely and reliably, but also be easily, quickly printable. With a design in hand, Andrew next reached out to the local 3D-printer community via social media and quickly found another printer eager to help, Ryan Hoagland

“The first batch of 200 headbands and 100 clear plastic face shields went out to Porter Regional on April 8 and I’m waiting to hear back on how well they are working and to see if we need to tweak the design,” Taylor says. By the end of last week Taylor and Hoagland had also 3D-printed an additional 100 headbands to which face shields will be attached. That face shield can actually be fashioned from a variety of plastics and at the moment Taylor has 600 clear binder covers on order, “thanks to generous donations thus far.”

Taylor, a 2011 Chesterton High School graduate, has two consumer-oriented plastic printers of his own and then another pair made available to him for the effort, one from his step-father, Tom Cahillane, the other from the owner of Chesterton Brewery, Vern Brown. And while 3D-printing has mostly been a hobby for him, just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic this year he began selling custom prints, so he’s definitely got the chops for the job.

Turns out, Andrew can print one face shield headband per hour per printer. “3D-printers work by feeding the plastic through a nozzle with an extruder,” he says. “The code tells the printer where to move the X and Y axes and how much filament, or plastic, to extrude. Once it’s done with a single layer, the Z axis moves up about 0.2 millimeters to the next layer and the process continues until you have a 3D object. These shields are about 50 layers tall.”

As much as social-distancing will allow, the face mask project has been an all-hands enterprise, with Taylor’s wife, Amanda, manning the printers while he continues to report to the mill, then prepping the shields on the kitchen table. Besides the donated 3D-printers provided by Cahillane and Brown--the latter of whom has put the Chesterton Brewery to work making “ear savers” for nurses, small pads which help relieve stress on the back of the ears caused by face masks--Taylor has enlisted others in the cause. “Many have helped donate in various ways,” he says, “most being family and friends sending me needed supplies directly to my house.”

But Taylor would gratefully accept cash donations from the community as well. “This method is ideal so I can order exactly what we need to make as many shields as possible,” he says. Dunelanders looking to help the frontliners at PRH--and other medical facilities too, as Taylor ramps up the printing--can do so at

“You know, I saw a need and was able to use the skills I developed as a hobbyist to give back to the community when they need it the most,” Taylor said. “And I’m glad I can help.”

For more information on the Chesterton Brewery’s ear saver project, visit its Facebook page.



Posted 4/16/2020




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