ITHACA, N.Y. –– Ithaca Generator is working with the Cornell College of Engineering and Weill Medical Center in New York City to make personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical providers that has been in short supply as global demand has surged.

The Generator network is using 3D printers to produce plastic face-shields to be distributed locally, and also in NYC where COVID-19 cases continue to increase rapidly, and the supply of PPE continues to dwindle.

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, used in conjunction with an N95 mask, the face shield prevents aerosolized liquids like a cough or sneeze from getting anywhere on your face that isn’t covered by a respirator. 

Amy Kuceyeski, an associate professor in mathematics and radiology at Cornell University originated the project, and was able to garner support from Elliott Wells, president of the Ithaca Generator.

“Amy had some colleagues at Cornell in New York City, and they identified a specific design of protective gear that they said we could use,” Wells said.

From there, the project has taken off.

“We have three printers here at the generator…we sent all of our 3D printers home with volunteers, since our physical location is closed…then Jon (an IG board member) and I bought a handful of printers each to run at our house. And it sort of snowballed from there,” Wells said. 

The Generator has since spearheaded a successful fundraising campaign to purchase additional printers and supplies –– raising over $6,000. The group has committed to purchasing 15 new printers with the money as well as to training 15 new people to operate the machines. The printers run around $225 per unit.

Between Wells, his colleagues at the Generator, and those at Cornell helping out, the group has around 185 3D printers total, and between 80 and 85 volunteers.

There are two pieces that go into making a face shield –– a plastic headband like piece, and a separate long, clear “lens.” The headband piece is the part the group is 3D printing.

Wells said inexpensive machines take about an hour to print the piece, while some of the high efficiency machines can print them in as little as 20 minutes. The face shields are being produced at a rate of about 1,000 shields a day.

The goal is to get a few thousand masks into the hands of medical professionals at Cayuga Medical Center, and possibly expand to other area facilities such as Schuyler hospital. As for New York City hospitals, Weil Cornell estimates that at the “apex” of the outbreak –– which the Governor has estimated could be as soon as the end of April –– they will need 20,000 face shields per day.

4,742 face shields have been manufactured so far, about 3,400 of those have been delivered and the rest are getting ready to go out in the next shipment.

For those looking to help, Wells said the best approach is to donate to the IG GiveGab page for the project.

“Folks can donate and we will use the funds to buy material for more face shields, and to increase production,” Wells said. “We have reached the limit of our ability to teach people how to 3-D print at this time but donations are welcome.”

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at