This DIY face shield for frontliners is nothing to sneeze at

Louis Ooi showing Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow the components of the face shield, made with the help of volunteers and the Penang Science Cluster.

GEORGE TOWN: A Penang-based engineer and his doctor friend have made life easier for frontliners in Penang testing patients for Covid-19 with cheap face shields to prevent them from being infected at a time of shortage.

Engineer Louis Ooi and his friend Dr Seet Jia Sheng, both 28, partnered with Penang Science Cluster, a state-supported non-profit group, to come up with the do-it-yourself shield.

Louis Ooi holding up the plastic visors made with the help of volunteers across Penang, who have 3D printers.

And in just one week, with the help of volunteers at separate locations across Penang, they made 1,300 visors and 7,000 shields, both made from plastic.

Speaking to FMT, Ooi said he first got the idea to come up with the DIY face shield after his friend Seet mentioned about the lack of face shields during Covid-19 testing at government hospitals.

“You see, when you swab a patient, you insert a cotton swab into their nose. And, inevitably, they will make them sneeze.

“And when a patient sneezes, the spray will fall on a doctor or a nurse wearing a cotton face mask. This increases the chance of the frontliners falling ill.

“So, the only way to prevent this is to ensure plastic shields are worn, it is the most effective way,” he said.

Ooi said after looking at how medical face shields are constructed online and in consultation with many doctors, they came up with an easy-to-make face shield which was effective in blocking out whatever was sneezed out by patients.

He said the three-step face shield provided adequate protection from sneezing patients and caught the droplets from patients, some of whom may be positive for the virus.

Components needed to make the face shields.

Ooi said a three-step process was involved in making the shield and it was easy to assemble. First, there is an elastic band that holds the visor to the forehead, and a plastic shield fashioned from thick clear holders, obtained from stationery shops.

He said the most important bit was the plastic visor that held the plastic shield in place.

“The plastic visors can be reused many times after being sanitised, while the plastic shield can be disposed of and replaced,” he said.

To do that, he said about 30 people from all over Penang with 3D printers churned out 1,300 of these in a matter of weeks.

“It takes about 20 minutes to make one visor. And the elastic band and plastic hood are easy to attach on with notches in the front,” he said.

3D printers running at a volunteer’s home, making the key component, which is the plastic visor, which is reusable.

Ooi says about 150 to 200 visors could be made daily.

The volunteers were gathered as part of a crowdsourcing effort started by the Penang Science Cluster, which also has many 3D printers at its premises on China Street Ghrepaut.

“We have supplied our protective gear to 17 general hospitals and health clinics in the state to date. The material cost for each of these face shields is RM2.50.”

Ooi’s work was recognised by Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow today. He announced a RM60,000 grant for Ooi and his team at Penang Science Cluster to come up with 2,000 face shields daily for a month.