NCSU making face shields for workers on the front line of the coronavirus crisis

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The risk of contact with the coronavirus has elected leaders in North Carolina and across the nation ordering people to stay inside their homes. While we practice social distancing and avoid most contact with others, each day medical workers face people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus.

Concern about their safety prompted the work of students Saturday, at North Carolina State University's Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering machine shop. That's where lasers cut materials used to create protective shields for those professionals working in hospitals and clinics.

"Here in this room we are manufacturing specialized masks," said Dr. Landon Grace of NCSU. "For their positive pressure systems. So they create a seal around the doctor's face, put some air in there creates positive pressure to prevent any aerosols from coming in."

That's important because the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread through moisture droplets hanging in the air after someone exposed to it coughs or sneezes.

"Absolutely," said Dr. Grace. "There are a whole lot of requests and needs and priorities coming in from hospitals, and the UNC health system daily sometimes hourly. And one of the things that they're running into is shortages of those shields. They're normally used for that purpose, for high-risk procedures, of course, there's a lot more of those these days."

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How long does the manufacturing process take?

"It's hard to say. We're getting faster all the time," Dr. Grace said. "We're making about 80 per day. So, start to finish, probably 10 to 15 minutes. There are a whole lot of requests and needs and priorities coming in from hospitals, and the UNC health system daily sometimes hourly. And so, distributing that work among our faculty, and among the community, we've got a volunteer network of 3-D printers. That is well over 100 at this point, we haven't asked them to print anything yet. But that may happen."

For now, workers inside that machine shop on NCSU's campus focus on helping healthcare workers avoid exposure to the coronavirus.
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