62 MXS shields McChord with 3D printing

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The 62nd Maintenance Squadron (MXS) Metals Technology Shop are using their new 3D printer to create facemasks and shields for the McChord Dental Clinic to help keep them safe from COVID-19.

The shop recently purchased a larger 3D printer than the one they had previously and have already put it to good use.

“Because of the pandemic, the commander wants us to prove not only can we support maintenance, but also the clinic, the hospital and other far reaching implications,” said William Nelson, 62nd MXS Metals Technology Shop foreman.

Because of the virus, shortages on facemasks and shields are a real problem. Back orders and shipping delays can make purchasing new ones a non-viable option.

“I think it’s a good way for the Air Force to save money, time and energy to replenish the mask shortage,” said Airman 1st Class Austin Juntrapen, 62nd MXS metals technology journeyman. “These masks will help protect people, especially in the medical field.”

Nelson and Robert Hogsett, 62nd MXS Metals Technology Shop 3D printer technicians, created several prototypes of the masks and shields and are fine-tuning the product before presenting them to the dental clinic. Juntrapen assisted them in new designs and printing the masks.

“I was involved in the designs for the masks and how they were drawn up,” Juntrapen said. “Once they started printing, I was shown how to set up and print them out. So far, we have made about 40 masks.”

A 3D printer is much more flexible and versatile than any other type of production and helped the shop design the best form and function for the masks and shields.

“We can [create things] with additive manufacturing (3D printing) that we can’t do in any other type of manufacturing,” Nelson said. “For the face shields, it would be nearly impossible to have the double layer we made for the frame other than on a 3D printer.”

The uses for the shop’s 3D printer are endless and can be shared with other bases across the Air Force. One of the biggest advantages of using a 3D printer is any part or product designed by the metals technology shop can be sent to other bases who have the same type of 3D printer.

“Each of the prints is a file, like a music file,” Hogsett said. “You can send a music file to someone clear across the world and you can do the same thing with this. If you have someone in New Zealand who needs to bring a part to Antarctica on an ice run, you can send them the file and they can print them on site instead of flying the part.”

3D printing may be fairly new technology, but is ever-changing. Keeping up with the latest procedures can be a difficult task.

“We have developed a makeshift checklist and are learning as the technology is advancing,” Nelson said. “It’s changing so fast, it’s worse than cell phones. Policy is constantly changing, but I think we will all get there together.”

The Air Force has had to remain flexible during COVID-19, coming up with new ideas to overcome a multitude of challenges created by the pandemic. The 62nd MXS Metals Technology Shop using their 3D printer to produce much needed face masks and shields during a shortage is one example of how Team McChord Airmen continue to support one another during a time of need.