University Professor Uses 3D Technology to Help Protect Healthcare Workers

Hergenrother assembled face shields from his home office for healthcare workers amidst the pandemic. PHOTO COURTESY/ University Relations

Hergenrother assembled face shields from his home office for healthcare workers amidst the pandemic. PHOTO COURTESY/ University Relations

The COVID-19 pandemic has created an awareness of and a gratitude for the heroes without capes — police officers, firefighters, ambulance drivers, doctors and nurses. While some are  doing their part to save lives by staying home to prevent the spread, others are acting on their creativity and making personal protective equipment (PPE) for the frontline heroes.

Max Hergenrother, director of Technology Operations of The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies (CCPS) aimed to ease the stress of the decreased medical supply in Queens hospitals by working with six 3D printers to design face shields from his home office in Glen Head on Long Island.

As St.John’s University transitioned to remote learning, he was able to gather SeeMeCNC and Prusa 3D printers from St. Augustine Hall and set up a printing farm in one of his spare rooms at his home. 

“At St. John’s, if we’re able to help, it happens,” Hergenrother said in an article published by the Queens Courier. “It’s the Vincentian mission. St. Vincent de Paul was about helping people who are most in need — and the most pressing need now, I think, is our medical services. They’re the ones helping stem the crisis that’s going on. If we can help them, we can help all of us.”

Using designs from the internet and seed money provided by the University, Hergenrother purchased materials to develop semi-disposable protective face shields that are made of semicircle clear plastic. The face shields are able to cover faces entirely and are adjustable with a buttonhole elastic band.

Hergenrother has been with St. John’s for 20 years in several capacities: as an adjunct associate Professor for the department of Art and Design in St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and as studio manager and director of Technology Operations for CCPS. Hergenrother also runs 3D printing courses and seminars at the University. 

“I am grateful that our University’s technological resources are helping the health-care professionals who are at the front lines of this pandemic,”  Hergenrother said in a press release on the University website.

Hergenrother obtained PRUSA from the St. Augustine Library to assemble PPE from his office. PHOTO COURTESY/ University Relations

The face shields have been donated to New York-Presbyterian Queens Hospital and distributed to other hospitals throughout Queens through their distribution chain. St. John’s also previously donated nearly 200,000 units of medical supplies to New York-Presbyterian Queens Hospital to aid in their efforts during this crisis. 

Hergenrother recognized the power of community as he worked to put the masks together in an effort to assist healthcare workers at the forefront of the global fight against the novel coronavirus. He received support from the University, including a donation from Joseph E. Oliva, vice president for Administration, Secretary and General counsel. 

“It makes me proud to see the unwavering support of our administration to carry out our Vincentian mission to aid those in need,” Hergenrother said in the same University press release. “I continue to work tirelessly with our creative and supportive team to do all we can to help protect our citizens and keep them safe and healthy.”

While Hergenrother works from home, he and his wife must also assist his two kids as they adapt to remote learning.

“It is a juggle but it’s a worthwhile juggle,” he said to the Queens Courier.

Starting off with 175 face shields a week, Hergenrother is up to 250 a week as of Apr. 13. He aims to create another design that will boost production up to 400 a week. However, he’s in short supply of buttonhole elastic bands and encourages those who may have the material to donate to the University.

Fox News recently featured both St. John’s and Hergenrother’s efforts in a broadcast piece that was part of the news organization’s “America Together” series. Hergenrother has since  received offers to expand the printing farm and work with organizations for mass production. 

In the meantime, Hergenrother aims to continue providing PPE for healthcare workers for as long as they may need, regardless of the potential surplus of equipment. 

“The more, the better off the medical workers are and the more effectively they can work. So I’m going to keep running full steam ahead,” he said.