U.P. schools use 3D printers to make face shields for frontline workers

MARQUETTE COUNTY — In light of the ongoing shortage of personal protective equipment for our frontline workers, many local organizations are looking for ways to help.


One such group is Michigan Makers United Against COVID–19. Started by Marquette Area Public Schools teacher Becky LaBrecque, the group is made up of educators throughout the state using their school’s 3D printers to make equipment for healthcare professionals.

“I started doing some of these prints, and once I realized the need in the area, I reached out to area schools who I knew had 3D printers,” says LaBrecque. “Many of them jumped on board, pulled their printers out of school, and took them home to help work on this project. So we can’t really have students working with us right now, but instead we’re utilizing our equipment from school.”

Just a couple weeks ago, LaBrecque started printing face shields in the MAPS Makerspace. Now, schools across the Upper Peninsula are printing as many shields as they can.

Communities are invited to get involved with this project by assisting with funding for their local schools.

“Schools don’t have funding to go out and buy things, and we also can’t charge for the items that we make,” explains LaBrecque. “We donate what we make, and we make it with donated supplies. And then 3D printers are really expensive, and most of us have been running our entire fleet 24/7 for three weeks now. That’s not common for our equipment, so we’re looking to raise funds so that we can have replacement equipment available when we are back to teaching school.”

LaBrecque says that in addition to helping healthcare workers during this equipment shortage, this initiative will be a good lesson for students. It will show them both how 3D printing can benefit communities in a huge way, and how people across the region can come together to help those in need.

“I think most of us that are working on this project will feature it within our classes,” says LaBrecque. “We’ve had to go through a lot of the processes that we put our students through. We’ve had to redesign and go through everything that we teach to the students, so it’ll be a great model for us to utilize with them. It also shows a real case scenario of how 3D printing can be used in our community, which is something that we don’t always see. So it’s been just an amazing thing to be involved with. Also to see teachers from every community coming together, no questions asked, to work together, that’s a powerful thing for our community to see as well.”

The Michigan Makers United Against COVID–19 website has a full list of schools participating in this initiative, as well as more information on how to get involved. Many schools have created GoFundMe pages to donate directly to them.