Tennessee Higher Education mobilizes to produce personal protective equipment

A GIS Center 3D printer creates a face shield frame.

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) has announced that public postsecondary institutions across the state would be utilizing existing 3D printers to mitigate the potential risk of medical supply shortages for Tennesseans.

“In unprecedented times, Tennessee higher education is united in doing our part to support the state’s brave health care professionals,” said THEC Executive Director Mike Krause said. “Our colleges and universities have always been incubators for innovation, and this is a perfect example of the ingenuity and dedication of that work. The credit for this incredible effort goes to the leaders of the colleges, universities and systems, our faculty who have worked tirelessly this weekend, and community volunteers who have also stepped up.”

Face shields are in production at Tennessee public higher education campuses using 3D printers.

This effort is a result of Gov. Lee’s request to find new ways to serve Tennesseans during the COVID-19 crisis. Last week, THEC, in concert with the Tennessee Board of Regents and respective universities, began to locate 3D printers and produce personal protective equipment (PPE) face shields using 3D printers, which were already available at campuses. After three days of intensive around the clock efforts that included a range of community and business partners, the effort produced over 1500 critically needed pieces of PPE for health care professionals in only three days. Intense efforts will continue in the coming days and weeks.

The first batch of these face shields are expected to be complete on Wednesday of this week, and will be centrally packaged at Austin Peay State University, the campus that originated the prototype. After completion, this PPE equipment will be delivered directly to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.

Campuses participating in the initial production of face shields include:

  • Austin Peay State University
  • East Tennessee State University
  • TCAT Elizabethton
  • TCAT Jackson
  • TCAT Shelbyville
  • TCAT Murfreesboro
  • Tennessee Technological University
  • University of Memphis
  • University of Tennessee, Knoxville

In the coming weeks, additional universities and technical colleges are expected to join in this collaborative effort.