The Glia Face Shield Project
In early March 2020, Glia observed the international concern surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic and assessed the call for personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies in the Canadian healthcare system. At the time, face shields were a popular barrier against viral particle exposure and extended the viability of scarce N95 masks. Due to sudden medical supply chain stress, some hospitals experiencing patient volume surges created homemade face shields from office supplies.
Determined to help protect local healthcare workers from the incoming pandemic, the Glia team created the face shield project from an open source, 3D printable design. Production partnerships were formed with local additive manufacturers such as Mosaic Medical and, due to the social distancing requirements, a nodal distributed manufacturing network was formed. Partners would 3D print the face shield headbands and deliver them to the Glia office, where all the parts were disinfected and assembled with the Mylar shield. This production method proved extremely popular: at project height, there were sixteen nodes printing for the Glia face shield, including several volunteer organizations. An official decontamination protocol was created, the first in existence, within the Glia partner network and was later adopted for stethoscope production, another design in high demand during the pandemic.
The nodal manufacturing model was able to rapidly produce, and the first face shield orders received on March 20, 2020, were fulfilled five days later. User demand was high and Glia partnered with Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGEN) to scale production in early April. Through Glia’s partnership with the Advanced Preoperative Imaging Lab (APIL) at University Health Network (UHN), a Glia Toronto office was formed. Close to 2,000 units were distributed from this office.
Because a face shield is often worn for long periods of time, Glia created a design that was both comfortable and protective for the user, but also easy to manufacture. It was challenging to meet this objective within a constantly shifting supply chain of raw materials. Mylar was difficult to source and buttonhole elastic (to secure the face shield headband) was impossible to find. The face shield went through several design iterations, finally settling on a closed headband (to block droplet spray from above) and a small buckle to secure the headband strap, which could be made from diverse materials. To encourage consistent reuse of the face shield, a replacement Mylar shield was also created.
By the end of June 2020, local demand had been fulfilled and the production partnerships disbanded. To date, the Glia face shield stands as the most successful initiative yet, with approximately 10,000 units sold or donated within the Canadian healthcare network. Because the design and production model was open sourced, Glia Gaza was able to manufacture face shields for Gaza healthcare workers. Due to changing consumer demand within the ongoing pandemic, the face shield project was officially closed in December 2022 but all design files remain in the project GitHub.