Student Gives Back to the Community on the Front Lines

Photo Courtesy of Dhawal Bhanderi

Mechanical engineering junior 3D prints face shields for the local hospitals in his area


Mechanical engineering junior Dhawal Bhanderi is using his time in quarantine to build protective face shields with his 3D printer from his home in Virginia Beach. 

The shields are being sent to two hospitals: Sentara Leigh Hospital and Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, located in Norfolk, Va., to the doctors fighting the coronavirus pandemic on the front lines.

“I started this project after my sister brought to my attention that hospitals across the U.S. were having supply shortages and that people were 3D printing and donating face shields,” Bhanderi said.

The 3D print design for the headband that Bhanderi uses was taken from the National Institute of Health (NIH) after Bhanderi spent hours researching which design he could use for his face shield. The NIH’s face shield design is made up of two components: the 3D-printed headband and the plastic binding covers with punched holes that are mounted to the headband.

“I downloaded the file from the National Institute of Health and began to print the headband in various settings,” Bhanderi said. “I did this to find the sweet spot between quality and time to print. The main material required to 3D print the headbands [is] PET filament.” 

Bhanderi uses a program called Slicer, which is a software that cuts 3D designs into layers in order to convert the 3D headband design into a file for the printer. Then, he uploads the created file to the printer and lets it heat up. After heating, the printer extrudes plastic layer by layer until all the layers are printed.

“Using this process, I am able to print about 20-25 quality face shields per week,” Bhanderi said.

According to Bhanderi, each face shield costs him between $0.75 and $1.50 to make.  

“The biggest factor is knowing that I can make a difference for the hospital workers in my area,” Bhanderi said. “They are on the front lines of fighting this pandemic and it is very important that they have personal protective equipment. Having 3D printed face shields is much better than not having any shield.” 

Bhanderi said that he began making face shields long before he discussed it with any of his professors.

“If I were to name professors close to me who have been super supportive, I would say Professor George Siragusa and Professor Leigh McCue-Weil,” Bhanderi said. “They both have been supportive and encouraging.”

Siragusa spoke of Bhanderi’s project in a news release on the Volgenau school of engineering’s website.

“Dhawal has taken the initiative to make a difference in his community in these challenging times,” Siragusa said in the release. “This kind of leadership is heartwarming and sheds a positive light on our program at Mason Engineering.”

Bhanderi believes that his project is impacting his community because it is helping protect people who rely on doctors for medical attention and treating COVID-19 patients.

I am not sure if anyone else in my area is doing this as well,” Bhanderi said. “However, I know the MIX at Mason have been creating face shields and other devices for first responders in Northern Virginia.”