State colleges, including Tunxis, band together to make PPE for front-line workers

Published on Monday, 13 April 2020 10:00


With courses moved online as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Tunxis Community College and other campuses in the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system have repurposed their advanced manufacturing technology centers to help meet the state’s need for personal protective equipment (PPE).

State colleges, including Tunxis, band together to make PPE for front-line workers

Tunxis, along with Asnuntuck, Housatonic, Naugatuck Valley and Northwestern community colleges, have begun to produce face shield frames for area hospitals and nursing homes.

Using additive manufacturing technology, including 3D printers, the colleges are using approved designs to manufacture the plastic frames. The 3D printed items are designed so a piece of polyethylene sheeting can be attached and provide a protective barrier between health care workers and their patients.

Tunxis, Asnuntuck, and Housatonic will be donating finished shields to St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury.

“We are grateful to all of the doctors and health care organizations in our communities who are working long hours to save lives, and are glad that we can contribute to this effort to help prevent and reduce their risk of exposure to COVID-19,” said Darryl Reome, Tunxis campus CEO.

The need for PPE has brought these colleges together to help in any way they can.

“Connecticut’s health care workers – many of whom are graduates of CSCU institutions – are on the front line, combating this virus every day,” CSCU President Mark Ojakian said. “With critical shortages of PPE, CSCU institutions, employees, and students are stepping up and making a difference in the state’s response to the outbreak. It is a small part of the overall solution, but we are proud to be part of this concerted effort.”

At Asnuntuck, Chris Foster, an advanced manufacturing instructor specializing in additive manufacturing, has been leading the effort at the college and producing 20-25 face shield brackets per day. Asnuntuck is also printing ventilator adaptor manifolds and flexible re-usable face masks.

Naugatuck Valley has 3D printers and faculty to produce parts that could be used in respirators, face masks and other necessary PPE. Currently, they are collaborating with a local business, Danker Design LLC, that is organizing private companies and individuals to donate time and material to print 20,000 face shields in 20 days.

A 3D specialist at Naugatuck Valley, Chuck Buchanan, partnered with St. Mary’s Hospital to produce an important component of face shields, using the college’s 3D printers. Buchanan produced and delivered 17 of these components in two days. The project is now pivoting to producing other components.

In the Shoreline-West Region, Housatonic Community College instructors George Scobie, Adam Scobie and Tristan Hunte borrowed nine 3D printers owned by the college to work remotely, and are privately donating the plastic materials and labor to build the frames. The team has already built a total of 150 frames at the Scobies’ business, MRH Tool in Milford.

The Housatonic instructors are producing face shield frames approved by St. Mary’s Hospital to fit the 20,000 face shields the hospital has but cannot use without frames, said Rich DuPont, director of community and campus relations for Housatonic’s Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center.

Western Connecticut State University’s Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, in coordination with the Department of Information Technology & Innovation, programmed a 3D printer to manufacture a component used in the assembly of protective face shields for medical personnel.

“This crisis requires everyone to do their own small part,” said Dr. John B. Clark, WCSU president. “Western is proud to work collaboratively with our fellow CSCU institutions to make a real difference in the state’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts.”

The printer was delivered to St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, which made the original inquiry, and another is available for additional hospitals.

“We are hearing the need for PPE and talking with our colleagues around the state to see how we can work together to utilize the additive manufacturing equipment we have on campus to be able to help produce the needed PPE,” said Mary Bidwell, interim dean of Advanced Manufacturing Technology for Tunxis and Asnuntuck. “We have the equipment and want to help in any way we can in the best way we can.”

Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or

Posted in The Bristol Press, General Business, General News on Monday, 13 April 2020 10:00. Updated: Monday, 13 April 2020 10:02.