Amazon’s Drone Team Develops Face Shields for Frontline Workers
Amazon will start mass-producing face shields and will list them at-cost on Amazon.com in the next few weeks. The idea, hatched by 3D printing enthusiasts, to make face shields for frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic gained a helping hand from engineers on Amazon’s drone team.
In early March, a group of mechanical design and hardware engineers from the Amazon Prime Air division joined a group of open source 3D printing enthusiasts in Washington who had been designing and hand-building face shields. In one week, engineers from the drone team, in coordination with the open source group, took the initial design improved it.
Improvements, based on feedback from medical professionals, included making the shields reusable, adding an enhanced snap feature to keep the shield in-place, reducing sharp edges, thinning the forehead band to reduce pressure, and improving print time making them quicker to manufacture.
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Amazon said hundreds of thousands of the shields will be available over the next few weeks and it will list them at-cost. To date, Amazon has donated 10,000 and will deliver another 20,000 in the coming weeks. Amazon will prioritize frontline workers and then eventually all Amazon customers.
Amazon has produced a detailed open sourced design package for both 3D printing and injection molding so anyone can access and manufacture frames for their community’s needs.
Amazon’s Prime Air engineers received approval on their new design by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) so medical professionals can feel comfortable accepting them as donations or producing them.
In addition, Amazon has repurposed its manufacturing facilities and is working with outside vendors to produce new face shields as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. It said it’s using a machine that ordinarily cuts fibre materials to manufacture drones but is now being used to cut screens for the face shields as part of the manufacturing process.
“We have amazing teams creating and building every day,” said Brad Porter, VP robotics, Amazon. “Watching them quickly adapt to the community’s needs during this stressful time and develop a face shield that we’ve heard from medical professionals is one of the best has been such a rewarding experience. It’s important that these critical supplies get to healthcare and government organizations and we want to help make that happen —whether that’s working with the open-source community, donating the shields, or selling these essential supplies.”