Alabama Power partners with UA, UAB to make face shields

Alabama Power, in partnership with UAB’s School of Engineering and the Alabama Productivity Center at The University of Alabama, is among the growing number of organizations using their resources to produce much-needed personal protective equipment for medical professionals.

Personal protective equipment refers to the face masks and shields, gowns, goggles and gloves worn by medical professionals to protect them from contracting COVID-19 while caring for patients diagnosed with the virus.

Face shields are being produced at Alabama Power’s Technology Application Center in Calera. The TAC’s 3D printers and other resources are being used to the plastic head bands needed to assemble face shields.

Resources at Alabama Power’s Print Shop are also being used to laser cut the plastic shields needed for the face shields. The print design files were provided by UAB and assembly is expected to take place at UAB.

With several parts of the face shields produced at these facilities, the company has been able to produce around 4,700 items for UAB to assemble into complete face shields.

Two 3D printers from the Alabama Productivity Center are running nonstop, producing plastic headbands for the face shields. At the UAB School of Engineering, head bands are being made using five 3D printers.

The project got started on March 26 after TAC team leader Scott Bishop reached out to Justin Koch at UAB and Jody Beck at the Alabama Productivity Center with the idea of producing face shields.

With UA being closed, Beck had already moved the Alabama Productivity Center’s two desktop 3D printers to his home, which has now been turned into a workshop. Beck’s wife, Sadie, a mechanical engineering Ph.D. student at UA, also joined in on the effort.

Since the group’s efforts began, Mercedes-Benz has stepped up to start producing face shields, Beck said. Businesses, schools and individuals in Tuscaloosa and the greater Birmingham area have also contributed to the effort.

“We have a network of about 14 people now working with us,” Beck said.

Beck said educators from Thompson High School, Thompson Middle School, Hoover High School and Briarwood Christian School who have access to 3D printers and other resources at their schools have reached out to help. Individuals who have small 3D printers at their homes have also offered their resources.

“It’s been very special to have a chance to contribute,” Beck said. “I am more than happy to be of service and help fulfill the need. And it’s so great to see others stepping up to help out.”

“Alabama Power cares about the communities we are honored to serve and continues to look for opportunities to help those in need, especially as COVID-19 continues to evolve,” reads a release from Alabama Power. “Our health care workers are true heroes, and with safety first being Alabama Power’s top priority, the company wants to ensure we do what we can to help protect the safety and health of the frontline workers and their families.”

The group will continue working to produce face shields as long as the need exists.

Those who have access to a 3D printer or other resources and would like to help can send an email to jbeck@cba.ua.edu.

Governor Kay Ivey’s COVID-19 response website Altogetheralabama.org has a submission form for people who have the capability to produce face shields and other PPE. Businesses or individuals who have the capability to produce PPE can connect with this initiative by filling out the form linked here: https://altogetheralabama.org/produce-supplies.