MechSE team vital to face shield production


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A team of engineers, physicians, researchers and designers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Carle Health has developed and launched production of a face shield for health professionals responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The team includes multiple personnel the MechSE Machine Shop team, including Kyle Cheek, Mark Pinson, Gary Sedberry, and Jeff Smith. Using their waterjet, they made all of the white head pieces for the shields. Ralf Möller from MechSE's Rapid Prototyping Lab participated in the overall face-shield development. He also designed and mass 3D-printed two versions of adjustable straps with a bio-degradable material.

"Just to provide the scope of the work, of the 16,690 straps required, the demand is still for 9,848 pieces, so the work is ongoing," Möller said on April 26. 

The design specifications and instructions for use have been made public, and can be downloaded here:

The face shield project is part of a larger Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) design initiative led jointly by The Grainger College of Engineering and the Carle Illinois College of Medicine’s Health Maker Lab, according to Martin Burke, MD, PhD, Associate Dean for Research at Carle Illinois College of Medicine.

“The goal of the PPE initiative is to leverage the collective power of the Health Maker Lab to respond to the urgent need to help front-line healthcare workers,” Burke said. “Barrierless collaboration between experts in medical sciences, engineering and design, in partnership with physicians, nurses and community members, has enabled extraordinary innovation in a time of crisis.”

Over a three-week period, the team designed and fabricated face shield components, solicited feedback from healthcare workers in a clinical setting at Carle Foundation Hospital, and received guidance under the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) public health emergency from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to fabricate these devices, said Irfan Ahmad, PhD, Executive Director of the Health Maker Lab, Assistant Dean for Research, Carle Illinois College of Medicine, and Executive Director for Interdisciplinary Initiatives for the Grainger College of Engineering.

“Healthcare workers in Champaign County will begin beta testing a small batch of prototypes this week. The university plans to produce at least 2,000 face shields to support short-term needs,” Ahmad said.

“We have conducted material availability research, and are partnering with local manufacturers like ShapeMaster, Inc., Wagner Machine Co. and others, and seeking grants for them to produce the face shields on a larger scale,” stated Lisa Bievenue, Director of Informatics Program, and of the CU Community Fab Lab.

“Our primary design criteria were all about the needs of health care workers, but we also wanted to enable rapid and cheap fabrication, easy assembly, and reusable frames that can be quickly sanitized with a range of approved techniques,” stated face shield team lead Jeremy Guest, PhD, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

“The team is collaborating to design and test prototypes for other PPE products as well as sterilization technologies, including N95 respirators, disposable and reusable gowns, masks and caps, and mid- and small-scale sterilization technologies,” said Helen Nguyen, PhD, Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and lead PI on the PPE project. “Dozens of professionals, from engineers, physicians and researchers to costume designers, staff and students, and community members are contributing their expertise and talents on these projects.”

“With community spread of COVID-19 we are pursuing every option to keep our patients, staff and the community safe. We must go beyond the traditional supply chain and develop and produce necessary equipment. We’re grateful to our colleagues at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who have quickly applied their expertise and capabilities to meet these needs,” said Carle Chief Medical Officer Charles Dennis, MD.

The Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab (Illinois Informatics), Architecture Fabrication Studio, Rapid Prototyping Lab, Mechanical Engineering Lab, and Materials Research Laboratory facilitated prototyping of the Health Maker Lab face shield project.

Contributors included clinicians from Carle Health, and faculty and researchers from across the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, including its Carle Illinois College of Medicine, Grainger College of Engineering, Gies College of Business, Krannert Center for Performing Arts, Siebel Center for Design, Holonyak Micro & Nanotechnology Lab, Materials Research Laboratory, College of Veterinary Medicine, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, Office of Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation, Health Care Engineering Systems Center, Institute of Sustainability, Energy, and Environment, Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, School of Art + Design, Division of Intercollegiate Athletics, and Facilities and Services. Other contributors included OSF Healthcare, Ctrl-Z Robotics Competition Team, EarthSense and Jump ARCHES.

Individuals, families and businesses, including University of Illinois alumni from across the globe, have made charitable donations to the PPE project, including the Larson Family, Kara Demirjian Huss and Mark Huss, Chris and Gozen Hartman, the family of Dr. Frank F. Shi and Mrs. Sharon Q. Du, Jump ARCHES and Busey Bank. To support this project and to learn more about how philanthropy makes a difference in this time of global crisis, please visit

The Health Maker Lab is a network of maker labs and design spaces across the University of Illinois campus. Professionals, students and citizen scientists collaborate, ideate and create unique solutions to global health challenges by prototyping anything at any scale—from molecules to buildings.

Learn more about the Health Maker Lab at


Charlie Simpson
Executive Director, Marketing and Communications
Carle Illinois College of Medicine
(630) 338-2558

Jennifer Hendricks Kaufmann 
Enterprise Communications and Health System Marketing Director 
Carle Health 
(217) 902-5201

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This story was published April 26, 2020.