Several Ann Arbor engineering teachers are aiding a campaign called Operation Face Shield Ann Arbor, using 3D printers to create face shields for medical professionals on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Robert Cupit, a teacher at Ann Arbor Public Schools, said he came across a video announcement from fellow teacher Bill Van Loo explaining how AAPS engineering teachers were creating 3D-printed face shields to donate to medical professionals. He had access to a 3D printer through the school system and decided he wanted to help out. The time it takes to create a mask varies, but Cupit said his machine takes about two-and-a-half hours. In an email to The Daily, Cupit explained how the process works. 

“I personally have 8 spools of filament, which is the material the 3D printers use to print,” Cupit wrote. “I can make approximately 22 shields per spool so 176 shields total. We have approximately 9 people working on the project with 3 distribution hubs. Each person has about the same amount, if not more material than I do. We are going to print as many as we possibly can with the time we have. The issue with scaling up is that once we run out it is very difficult to get more filament with all of this going on.”

Cupit and other AAPS teachers are working to make any personal protective equipment that they feel will help the medical professionals fight off the coronavirus pandemic. The AAPS teachers are asking for support through a GoFundMe page. 

“We have a lot of masks to print and not a lot of time to make them,” Cupit wrote. “People needed them last week and we just can’t keep up with the demand. The advantages of 3D printing are definitely cost and usability. You don’t have to be an engineer to use this equipment.” 

Once the staff at the Ann Arbor District Library heard about the AAPS teachers’ use of 3D printers, they realized they can use their 3D printers to pitch in. Rich Retyi, communications and marketing manager at the AADL, said AADL involved coworkers in helping to create personal protective equipment. They have access to four large printers, which can print three shields at a time, and some smaller ones that can do one at a time. On average, the library’s machines make about 20 shields per day.

“We’ve gotten great support from everyone at the library, which is really important because they made it really easy for us to get the things we need and to just go,” Retyi said. “We’ve been doing a lot of stuff through our website. We’ve been putting out craft videos, entertainment videos, that kind of thing on our website, but then to be able to add in something that’s tangible and that’s directly related to what’s going on is important for us to be able to do.”

Nursing sophomore Zoe Gierlinger said the personal protective equipment being created by the Ann Arbor community is important for doctors and nurses to have when treating patients. 

“One of the first things that we learned about is how to properly put on PPE and the different types of precautions. It ensures not only the safety and protection of the patient but also of the employees,” Gierlinger said. “For nurses taking care of someone with an illness, you want to make sure that you’re not spreading anything else to a patient that is already immunocompromised and you want to make sure that the nurse is protected because the nurses are working with other patients and coming in contact with other health care providers. It basically ensures the protection of both sides.”

Reporter Brayden Hirsch can be reached at

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