Face shields on the minds of Aitkin, FLOE, MLEC

It’s the kind of timing only Murphy’s law loves. As Aitkin High School’s tech department began ramping up production of face shields for local health care providers – using the school’s 3D printer – the printer decided to stop working. However, thanks to the generosity of Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative, the school expects to be up and running making the face shields in the next week or so. Aitkin High School isn’t the only one ramping up production of the plastic shields.


FLOE International’s facility in McGregor also recently donated a number of shields to Riverwood Healthcare Center.


Aitkin Schools Superintendent Dan Stifter shared the news about the new printer at Monday’s school board meeting.


Darla Croatt, one of three staff members at the high school working on the project along with Jason Roos and Javier Cuervo, explained that Stifter had the idea to use the high school’s 3D printers to make the shields.


“A file was downloaded from the internet and loaded into our 3D printer to print the head bands, and the clear plastic shields were cut out on our school’s laser cutter,” Croatt explained. “Mr. Cuervo got the 3D printer set up and started the print runs.”


However, in the process of printing the bands for the shields, the 3D printer burned out and stopped working.


Croatt and Stifter both said the school had been hoping to add an additional 3D printer regardless, but had to find one that met specific specifications.


That’s where MLEC stepped up, making a $1,950 donation to help the district purchase a higher quality 3D printer.


“The model recommended by several vendors was the MakerBot Method,” explained Croatt, who did the research on the printers. “It is a lot more durable, over twice as fast as our current one was, and can print two small jobs at a time.


The donation from MLEC, added to funds from a technology sale, will cover the cost of the printer, which Stifter estimated at about $3,400.


“A huge thank you to Mille Lacs Energy for the generous donation,” Croatt said.


As demand has risen for the face shields, it has outpaced supply. As a result, Riverwood Healthcare Center reached out to FLOE and asked if they could make face shields for the center’s health care workers.


Spearheaded by Shawn Hagen, manufacturer engineer at FLOE at the McGregor facility, a more comfortable and lightweight yet rugged face shield was designed and built.


Katie Nelson from Riverwood Healthcare picked up 66 face shields donated to the hospital this week by FLOE.


“FLOE is a proud supporter of the local health care providers in their community,” the press release from FLOE read.

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