Alan Puccinelli was running a bustling business selling accessories for 3D printers when the coronavirus pandemic hit in mid-March, bringing normal life to a grinding halt.
The Orfalea College of Business alum and Sacramento-area resident wanted to be helpful. He noticed a demand for personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.
“I just stopped and said, ‘Well, you know, maybe I can make a couple hundred of these face shields and be of help,’” said Puccinelli, who runs Repkord, a 3D printing company.
Puccinelli had been following the Czech company Prusa Research, which makes hobby-grade 3D printers, and noticed that they were designing medical face shields for medical workers in the Czech Republic.
Puccinelli used that design as a starting point, making a few face shields for emergency room doctors in his area.
“I said ‘Hey, is this helpful to you guys? I hear you’re running short or will be running short on PPE (personal protective equipment),’ ”Puccinelli said. “The answer I got was a resounding yes.”
So, Puccinelli and his team kicked into high gear on the effort, known as Operation Shields Up.
He already had some supply connections through his business that he was able to rely upon, and his all-volunteer team has come together fast — manufacturing as many as 1,400 face shields in one day.
Puccinelli also pinned a tweet on his Twitter page outlining what his team is doing and how people can help, which created a crowdsourcing effort for parts.
There have been challenges: due to social distancing, it’s impossible to just throw a bunch of people into manufacturing shields at the same time. The team has set up shifts and a structure to make production more efficient.
“People being out of work, and feeling helpless, and wanting to find a way to contribute meaningfully has allowed us to rally an intense volunteer base,” Puccinelli said. “And a really high-quality volunteer base, too.”
As of April 10, Operation Shields Up has produced 10,010 face shields.
The effort is running entirely on donations, and Puccinelli says they’re just trying to meet the need for equipment until normal supply chains kick in.
“I have no idea why it’s a small maker like me who’s able to be part of the rapid response team,” Puccinelli said, laughing. “But, you know, I’m doing it until they tell me they don’t need it anymore.”
Puccinelli asked anyone interested in helping to visit the group’s website, opshieldsup.org, for more information.