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Reprinted from The Columbus Telegram – Date: April 10, 2020

Community agencies collaborate on production of face shields

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Columbus Community Hospital staff members show off the face shields that ere created through a partnership between Behlen Mfg. Co., Central Community College, Columbus Public Schools, Scotus Central Catholic High School and other local manufacturers. They were printed using 3D printers, from a design and research from www.designthatmatters.org.


The idea came from a family member halfway across the country, but its impact, and those who are helping create it, will be felt right here in Columbus.

Recently, Behlen Mfg. Co.’s Heather Macholan, general manager of the custom fabrication division, had been discussing with the Behlen Team how her cousin, engineer John Eberly of Seattle, and other engineers were working with emergency room doctors to design a NIH (National Institute of Health) mask that provided the necessary protection for health care workers. Designs and instructions were sent on March 29th and the Behlen Team immediately reached out for help.

“Everyone always seems to come through. It was just last year with the floods, and ‘Nebraska Strong,’” Macholan said of Columbus’ support. “It’s in our nature to help internally, to ask ‘how can I help,’ and ‘what do I have?’”

Macholan was quick to acknowledge the response from schools and the East-Central Health District and Columbus Community Hospital.

“We reached out earlier this week and the response has been tremendous,” she said. “Work started with the community. On Tuesday, we contacted the local high schools and colleges and put a plan in place.”

At Columbus Public Schools, Middle School Assistant Principal Jordon Anderson, high school STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) teachers Adam Whitmore and Joe Krysal, as well as Superintendent Troy Loeffelholz, made the arrangements for the 3D printers to be used.

“This is why we start our STEM program, to offer students and staff real-life experiences,” Loeffelhoz said. “In this case, we’re helping those in need by making these masks.”

Macholan thanked Betsie Rall from Scotus Central Catholic, Ben Wilshusen from Central Community College and the team at Behlen: Jacob Forbes, Dan Broekemeier, and Juli Thelen.

CPS is operating its printers at both the high school and middle school with each location estimating upwards of 20 masks a day. Scotus Central Catholic and Central Community College, as well as Behlen, are helping with production.

“Joe Krysl and I are running the 3D printer lab at the high school to produce part of PPE being worn by medical professionals,” Whitmore said. “This project is definitely unique. Most of the time I am dealing with mechanical and electrical situations and solutions not necessarily medical. Hopefully, this can make an impact for someone.”

Total, Macholan said she believes 30 to 60 finished products can be produced daily.

“We sent out plans Tuesday morning and by Wednesday we were rolling,” she said.

Behlen is providing the headpieces at cost, between $3 and $3.50 each. The design provided by www.designthatmatters.org has pegs on the outside of the frame that are patterned after a standard 3-hole punch. This allows the ease of sourcing standard office supply items like report covers or tab dividers. Masks are secured by rubber bands, elastic or velcro, giving flexibility to those on the front line.

“That’s the beauty of it. The framework is to be used with any 3-hole punched dividers or sheet covers,” she said.

Currently masks have been distributed to Columbus Community Hospital, St. Francis Memorial Hospital in West Point and Countryside Homes in Madison. To date, nearly 300 shields have been distributed and more are available.

While schools sit empty, it’s important to show students across the community that careers and knowledge in STEM can have an impact.

“The one take-away I hope for is that it inspires more young students to pursue careers in STEM areas. There is no better testament to how STEM can make an impact in the world,” Macholan said.