Amazon to bring new COVID-19 face shield model to market

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology

Amazon is applying its drone knowledge to produce face shields with a 3D printer.

In early March 2020, a group of mechanical design and hardware engineers from the Amazon Prime Air drone division joined a group of 3D printing enthusiasts in Washington who were designing and building open-source face shields by hand. In one week, the engineers, in coordination with the open-source group, took the initial design and improved it, including by making it reusable. 

Amazon will start mass-producing these face shields and aims to make hundreds of thousands available over the next few weeks, at-cost, on its site. Based on the capabilities of its supply chain, Amazon says it will be able to list the face shields at one-third of the cost of other reusable face shields currently available to frontline workers. Amazon is looking to prioritize frontline workers and then eventually open up the shields to all Amazon customers.

Amazon has produced a detailed, open-sourced design package for both 3D printing and injection molding. This means that anyone, whether an individual or large company, can access and manufacture frames. The new design is also approved by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

In addition, Amazon has repurposed its manufacturing facilities and is working with outside vendors to produce new face shields as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. To date, Amazon has donated nearly 10,000 face shields and is on track to deliver 20,000 more in the coming weeks. 

Along with reusability, upgrades based on direct feedback from medical professionals included making materials reusable, enhancing a snap feature to keep the shield in-place, reducing sharp edges, thinning the forehead band to reduce pressure on a person’s forehead, and reducing print time.

“We have amazing teams creating and building every day,” said Brad Porter, VP robotics, Amazon. “Watching them quickly adapt to the community’s needs during this stressful time and develop a face shield that we’ve heard from medical professionals is one of the best has been such a rewarding experience. We are committed to leveraging our scale for good and putting our ability to innovate quickly into use to support communities.”

Amazon is actively developing proprietary responses to the COVID-19 virus it plans to share with the public. The e-tailer is building incremental testing capacity for COVID-19. A team of Amazon employees have moved from their normal day jobs onto a dedicated team to work on this initiative. Amazon hopes to start testing small numbers of its frontline employees soon, and promises to share any learnings.

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