The Berks PPE Resource Network is a coalition of local 3D-printers and institutions who are creating and distributing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to healthcare professionals, first responders, retirement homes, and essential job workers in Berks County during the COVID-19 pandemic at no charge.
With the leadership of the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance (GRCA) and Albright College’s Science Research Institute (SRI), the Network has received requests for more than 3,000 face shields and has distributed more than 1,000 to police departments, healthcare workers, retirement homes, and more.
Along with professionals at CrossTraining Mixed Reality in the GoggleWorks and students at the SRI, the Networks has a system of volunteers 3D printing day and night to meet demand.
“We have a little over 70 3D-printers going,” Adelle Schade, Director of Albright College’s SRI, said. “Local colleges and universities, local school districts, families, [etc.] have their printers out and producing these face shields.”
Once the face shields are made, they are labeled, packaged and picked up every Wednesday to be distributed in the GoggleWorks parking lot to organizations who made requests for the face shields. All of this is done while maintaining sanitary practices and social distancing.
Because large-scale manufacturers are working to meet increased demand for PPE worldwide, small businesses and organizations who need the equipment, such as police departments and retirement homes, are being overlooked in favor of larger institutions, such as hospital networks.
A collaborative effort, the Network was conceived to fulfill local need for face shields after several organizations contacted the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance (GRCA) for guidance on what they could do to help the community during the crisis.
Ellen Albright, Talent and Workforce Development Director at the GRCA, started reaching out to local organizations and institutions for brainstorming ideas. Albright started working closely with Schade and Kris Jackson, founder of CrossTraining Mixed Reality, eventually landing on the idea of 3D-printing face shields.
“We realized this is so much bigger than just an exercise; this is something we can mobilize people to do,” Albright said. “With Adelle and Kris’s great networks, and other folks weighing in, all of a sudden we had an ad-hoc committee and we were managing a ton of individuals in the community who were [3D-printing] face shields based off a template that was shared en-masse.”
The Network owes its success in-part to its organic-nature and community participation. According to Schade, “Every major organization in our county came together [to help]. Usually when you hear about [3D printing], it is one university leading the charge by themselves, it is not what is happening here.”
The effort, however, does not come without cost. According to Jackson, home-printers are quickly going through their supplies of filament, the material used to print the face shields, in order to meet demand. “The majority of people printing in their homes have probably just about depleted their supply. [CrossTraining] is about to get a big resupply, and when that comes in, we will reach out and get that out to people as needed.”
To support the Network and assist with costs, the Berks County Community Foundation has set up a fund, where community members can donate to help fund costs and logistics. Citizens are also encouraged to spread the word on social media, so the Network can reach as many essential workers and frontliners as possible who may be in need of face shields.
For more information and ways to help, or to make a request for face shields, go to www.berkspperesourcenet.org.
Photos and video by Jason Hugg