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How One Aspen Artist Is Printing PPE for Frontline Health Workers

Apr 17, 2020

Leah Aegerter in her living room with her 3D printers. The Aspen area artist has been printing medical equipment for frontline healthcare workers during the stay-at-home order.
Credit Leah Aegerter

When health concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered businesses and ski resorts across the state in mid-March, Leah Aegerter suddenly found herself in a similar place as most everyone else in Colorado—at home.

Normally, as Anderson Ranch Art Center's Digital Fabrication Lab Technician, Aegerter would be busy training new residents and planning workshops to run throughout the spring and summer, but with the Snowmass Village campus closed to the public and the state stay-at-home order in full effect, she's found a new artistic outlet: printing personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline healthcare workers with her own fleet of 3D printers from her living room.

"When COVID came into Colorado and we had the stay-at-home order, the Ranch had to cancel all of our programming," she explains. "I was searching for other things I could do at home, and a number of people had sent me links to 3D printing PPE, so I started playing around with that."

Aegerter and her three 3D printers.
Credit Leah Aegerter

Using online tutorials from sources like GetUsPPE.org, Aegerter started printing components for faceshields used by frontline medical workers (she's currently printing the visor, as the clear plastic needed for the face shield is in short supply nationwide, and it's difficult to print medical-grade N95 masks).

Aegerter starts with a computer file of what she wants to turn into a physical object—in this case, a visor for a face shield—and drops it into a software program that generates a code for a 3D printer to read. The code maps out something like a set of coordinates for the printer to move point to point, generating a steady bead of material as it goes. Every five and a half hours, she takes the completed print off the machine, and starts the file over again.

"I have three 3D printers that are basically running 24-7 at my house," says Aegerter. "I can make between 9 and 12 face shield visors for day ... once I get the clear plastic for the face shield part of the mask I'll attach them to the visors and send them off."

3D printed visors waiting to be fitted with plastic face shields for frontline medical workers.
Credit Leah Aegerter

Several Denver-area healthcare facilities have agreed to take Aegerter's face shields once they're fitted with plastic hoods, and the Town of Snowmass awarded Anderson Ranch $1,000 to cover the material cost of printing the equipment. In the meantime, Aegerter is happy to put her 3D printers to use for the greater good. 

"I feel grateful to be able to contribute with the tools that I have available to me," she says.