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OPG’s 3D-printed face shields helping to protect health care workers

OPG’s 3D printers are now rolling out parts for important plastic face shields to help the province’s health care workers fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

3D printing specialist Mike Di Lisi wears a 3D-printed face shield at OPG's X-Lab innovation hub.
3D printing specialist Mike Di Lisi wears a 3D-printed face shield at OPG's X-Lab innovation hub.

Having received an expedited licence from Health Canada, OPG shipped its first batch of 200 face shields to Ontario’s Ministry of Health in April for distribution to hospitals, long-term care homes, and other essential health care providers in urgent need of this equipment.

Using versatile 3D printers, OPG’s X-Lab innovation hub is producing the headband piece used in the assembly of the face shields, and the team has secured materials for the plastic visor and adjustable elastic strap through OPG’s vendor partners.

The company has also partnered with Ontario Tech University in Oshawa to fast-track the production of this critical piece of personal protective equipment, which provides a barrier to protect frontline health care workers from spray, splashes and splatter when assisting patients potentially infected with the virus.

“We have a lot of passionate people on the team who were moved to help the fight against COVID-19,” said Mike Gilbert, Manager of Innovation at the X-Lab. “These employees are thinking differently in anticipation of a medical supply shortage. From a 3D-printing perspective, they are thinking of what we can do as a company to help.”

Using an open source design, Gilbert and 3D printing specialists Mike Di Lisi, Michael Cleave, and Richard Sunnucks, as well as innovation specialist Caitlin Dwight, successfully printed various prototypes of the protective headsets. The X-Lab team is now producing about 20 face shields per day, but plans to increase production to 500 per week by utilizing four to five 3D printers for an initial run of about 1,200 face shields.

Using versatile 3D printers, OPG’s X-Lab innovation hub is producing parts to help build protective face shields for Ontario's healthcare workers.
Using versatile 3D printers, OPG’s X-Lab innovation hub is producing parts to help build protective face shields for Ontario's healthcare workers.

OPG and Ontario Tech previously distributed a batch of their respective face shields to Northumberland Hills Hospital in Cobourg and received constructive feedback that helped fine-tune the final design.

“The real advantage early on with 3D printing is that we can make a change very quickly by updating the source file and printing a new piece. We can print many of these, distribute them, learn from them, and make the necessary changes,” Gilbert said.

Various vendor partners have also reached out offering their 3D printers and other forms of support to expedite the production process. Among these is Toronto-based Protagon Display, which provided OPG the visor materials free of charge and is helping to cut and punch the visors to OPG’s particular specifications.

Aside from the plastic shields, the X-Lab team is also open to other ideas to help the province during this challenging time, including the production of ventilators.

“We’re definitely open to 3D printing other things, but for now we’re focused on this. We’re going to keep our ears to the ground,” Gilbert said.

If you’re a supplier or individual who may be interested in supporting this project, please contact Mike Gilbert at m.gilbert@opg.com.