UWF’s Sea3D laboratory producing face shields for healthcare workers


Morgan Givens

The University of West Florida holds a virtual press conference announcing the Haas Center and other faculty members are developing 3D-printed face shields to donate to local medical facilities in response to the COVID-19 outbreak on April 2, 2020 at the Sea3D Additive Manufacturing Lab.

Hunter Morrison, Staff Writer

As we approach the ninth month of an ongoing global pandemic, the University of West Florida’s Sea3D Additive Manufacturing Laboratory continues to produce 3-D printed face shields for healthcare workers in the Pensacola area. 

Opening in 2018 as a part of the UWF Haas Center, the Sea3D laboratory hosts science, engineering and art students who work in conjunction with one another to produce 3-D printed products. The Sea3D laboratory began the production and design of face shields in March of this year, with personal protective equipment becoming available to health care workers by the first week of April. 

“Several of us started talking about ways that Additive Manufacturing can help ease some of the pressures on the supply chain for PPE,” Nicole Gislason, Executive Director of the UWF Haas Center, said, “but our president [Martha D. Saunders] reached out early on to the team here at Sea3D and said ‘hey, how can you guys help?’”

Since then, the team at Sea3D has produced about 7,000 face shields. Baptist Health Care and Sacred Heart Hospital have been the largest recipients of these face shields so far.

The team at Sea3D consists of students and innovators from several departments at UWF, including mechanical engineering and art. Students from these departments, in addition to faculty members from the John C. Pace Library on UWF’s main campus, have assisted with visor printing and overall production of face shields. 

“We have about six machines running in the lab, so when our partners are printing with us, that nearly doubles our capacity,” said Gislason. 

While the Sea3D lab has been responsible for most of the manufacturing, outside organizations have also contributed to the production of these face shields. Most notably, Baptist Health Care has helped to ensure that these face shields get produced and shipped.

“Baptist Health Care has actually made in-kind donations,” said Gislason. “They help us with the packaging material and also the polyester lenses that go on the front of the shields, so they’ve been very, very helpful.”

Gislason credits much of the university’s team for the success of this project, including individuals from the mechanical engineering and art departments. 

“The lead scientist from mechanical engineering is Joe Piacenza, and the lead collaborator from art is Thomas Asmuth,” said Gislason. “Without those two, this project would not have been as successful.” 

Gislason also credits her fellow colleagues at the UWF Haas Center for the project’s success. 

Angela Sanders, Assistant Director of Administration at the Haas Center, has helped with distribution and ensures that all donees have received their face shields. Gislason would also like to thank Additive Manufacturing’s lead mechanical engineer Murilo Basso and his team of student engineers for running production at the lab and ensuring that all face shields are post-processed on time. Also credited is John Barksdale, administrator at the UWF Library SkyLab, for helping the team at Sea3D by administering the printing of visors in the SkyLab.

Although most face shields the Sea3D lab is producing are being donated to healthcare workers, they are available for purchase to individuals outside of the healthcare industry. The cost of each face shield is about $7.70 per unit, and you can request one on the Sea3D lab’s website.

The UWF Sea3D laboratory is open Monday through Friday from 10am-4pm. Due to COVID-19, you must schedule an appointment to visit the facility.

The laboratory is asking for donations to cover the cost of materials to produce these face shields. For more information about the Sea3D laboratory or to make a donation, please go to www.uwf.edu/sea3d.