"Thank you for taking care of us."
That's what a team of Denso Corp. employees in suburban Knoxville, Tenn., printed on the first face shields it made for hospital workers during the COVID-19 crisis.
With the guidance of front-line nurses at Blount Memorial Hospital, the Denso team developed, produced and delivered several thousand face shields.
Led by Britt Autry, Denso vice president of manufacturing, an initial team of 15 employees at the Japanese supplier's Maryville, Tenn., plant quickly got together during the weekend of March 20 to pivot from manufacturing auto parts to personal protective equipment.
After sketching a face shield design, which incorporated materials and tools the plant already had on hand, the team 3D printed its first prototype shield. The team tried a number of variations in the following days.
"We went through about five or six modifications with the 3D printer that week," Autry said.
The team's final mask design had some unique features to help stop the spread of the virus.
"We designed the shield to wrap around the ears, and that was something that no other shield would do — they would cover the face, but the ears were left open," Autry said.
After the modifications, the team gathered the campus's 3D printers and began churning out 50 shields per day. Along with the thank you message, the team printed its logo on the shields.