Community Stories

From the 3-D printer to the Emergency Room

April 14, 2020

Hundreds of doctors, nurses and health care workers across Alberta are staying safe amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to some specialized protective gear manufactured right here in Red Deer.

Researchers at the Centre for Innovation and Manufacturing at Red Deer College recently completed production of more than one-hundred protective plastic face shields, which are already in use in hospitals and care facilities across the province. The process normally requires shaping plastic into a mold and letting it dry. Instead, researchers at RDC used a template first developed and tested in the Czech Republic, then printed the headbands for the shields using high-tech 3-D printers.

“We needed a really quick turnaround,” explains Alicia Cafferata-Arnett, Applied Research Specialist with RDC’s Centre for Innovation and Manufacturing. “It was a trial run to see how the network would respond.”

The Centre for Innovation and Manufacturing is a member of the Alberta Additive Manufacturing Network, an industry-led organization that uses robotics and 3-D printing to improve manufacturing.

“We printed one, we gave it one of the ER doctors and he liked it, so we decided as a network to see if we could produce a bunch of them in a short amount of time,” says Cafferata-Arnett.

The college put out a call to other members of the network, asking for proposals to print more face shields. In less than 24 hours, six Alberta companies had signed on. A week later, over six-hundred masks were printed and on their way to health care workers across the province.

“We know that at least one place we gave them to wants to order more. We did exactly what we were supposed to do,” says Cafferata-Arnett.

Not only does producing the shields provide safety and peace of mind for front-line healthcare workers and patients, using the Additive Manufacturing Network to produce them helps stimulate the economy during the slump caused by COVID-19.

“If these tiny little companies can maintain their employees then we have a huge win,” says Cafferata-Arnett. “It’s nice to see the network come together and work together for a common cause. I think that’s one of the silver linings of COVID is that you’re seeing industry work together.”

To learn more about Red Deer College’s Centre for Innovation and Manufacturing visit