SFA faculty member Dan Bruton assembles face shields

SFA faculty member Dan Bruton

NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Equipped with just 10 3D printers, Dr. Dan Bruton, director of engineering and professor in Stephen F. Austin State University’s Department of Physics, Engineering and Astronomy, is providing medical professionals on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic with lifesaving personal protection equipment.

Using a design he found online and modified, Bruton is utilizing the department’s printers to manufacture face shields and distribute them to Nacogdoches Memorial Health.

“Makers and designers in the 3D printing communities around the world already have begun to respond to the global crisis by volunteering their respective skills to ease the pressure on supply chains and governments,” Bruton said. “Our community has many members eager to assist during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

These shields are vital to the safety of health care professionals, keeping them protected from infectious droplets released by coughing and sneezing when examining, testing or treating a sick individual, said Matthew Malloy, Nacogdoches Memorial nurse and SFA alumnus.

It takes two to three hours to print per headgear, and the plastic shield is then affixed to the front using thermal laminate and gaskets. Once assembled, Bruton takes a batch and drops them off at a location for Malloy to pick up and take to the hospital.

After learning that Bruton was making the personal protective equipment, Malloy was eager to assist. Having had Bruton as a professor for an astronomy class while a student at SFA, Malloy was familiar with his attention to detail and commitment to helping others.

“In times of crisis, there always are inspiring individuals who step forward in some capacity to meet a crucial need,” Malloy said. “For Nacogdoches, Dr. Bruton is one of the heroes who has stepped up and is helping save lives. He is helping to keep us safe so we health care professionals can continue taking care of the community that needs us.”

In his first week of operation, Bruton made 22 shields but now is up to more than 40. Not only are the shields keeping medical professionals in Nacogdoches safe, but the design also has been shared with SFA alumni in Lufkin who are using it to print shields for their community.

“The more people we can protect the better we can limit the spread of the virus to others,” Bruton said. “If doctors get it, that takes them out of the solution, so we want to make sure we protect them when they’re doing tests or treatments.”

Though making the shields takes up more and more of his time, Bruton continues to volunteer it for his community.

“Being able to observe Dr. Bruton unselfishly utilizing his skills, time and ingenuity to protect his neighbors and his city makes me proud to be an SFA alumnus and proud to be part of the Nacogdoches community,” Malloy said.