Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center uses 3D printer to make face shields, other protective gear


CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center is using their 3D printer to create protective gear for their staff.

Their main focus in the beginning was making face shields because they noticed their employees were facing a shortage.

“The facials in particular are facing a national shortage, so we were having a hard time finding supplies. We did get a quote from a vender and I’m sure this was inflated because of the situation, but it was $4 a face shield. We’re actually making them for 85 cents a face shield, so it’s cost saving and since we’re making them in house, we can distribute them right away and not have to wait for things to get shipped to us.”

Nikki Beitenman, Biomedical Engineer

They’ve made around 250 face shields to date and are making approximately 40 face shields a day through their system.

The hospital isn’t just making face shields, but they’re also making items such as protective shields for optometrists to provide a barrier between the doctors and their patients during eye exams and a device that helps lessen the irritation on your ears when you use a face mask.

Once they’re caught up on having enough equipment for their staff, they will look into sending equipment to other military based hospitals in the southeast and even in hotspot locations like New York, if they’re able to.

Tonya Lobbestael, Public Affairs Officer for the Ralph H. Johnson Medical Center, says it’s also possible for them to give equipment to other local hospitals such as MUSC, but any hospital that is not a military based hospital and wants to receive equipment has to go through an expedited process with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Lobbestael believes that 3D printing could save many more lives in the future.

“3D printing..the sky’s the limit for what it can do for patients to really help them with their lives and what it can do to help protect healthcare professionals.”

Tonya Lobbestael, Public Affairs Officer for the Ralph H. Johnson Medical Center

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