UTC Professor Trevor Elliott is doing a lot to combat Coronavirus in a challenging setting.
In the background of a phone conversation, Elliott’s three-month-old daughter is screaming like a three-month-old screams. At the same time, his three-year-old daughter is bugging him for attention.
“Here, I’ll pick you up,” he says to the youngest one. “OK, give me just a minute,” he tells the older one.
It’s about noon and his wife is at her job at TVA so with coronavirus closing the daycare center, Elliott is a stay-at-home dad taking care of the kids. At the same time, he’s trying to work in his job as UC Foundation assistant professor for mechanical engineering at UTC.
Right now, he’s leading the University’s effort on a massively important project — using 3D printers to help make face shields for local health care workers to protect them from the coronavirus.
“I’m usually working from about 10 at night until 3,” reports Elliott, who’s leading the University’s effort in the project.
Health care officials nationwide say there is a severe lack of medical equipment to protect doctors, nurses and others working to control the virus. Face shields are being used along with N95 respirators and surgical masks.
In Tennessee, the effort to use 3D printing to make face shields stretches statewide. Along with UTC it includes the Hamilton County system STEM School at Chattanooga State Community College; the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; the University of Memphis, Austin Peay State University in Clarksville and
Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville. Volkswagen’s 16 Volkswagen eLabs also are major participants.
“We are very glad to be a part of solving and fighting the coronavirus with the expertise that we have collectively with the partners in the state; we are putting our full force contribution and supporting this effort,” said Daniel Pack, dean of UTC College of Engineering and Computer Science at UTC.
The job of UTC is to print a part for the face shields—the piece that holds the clear, plastic facemask to the elastic band that wraps around the wearer’s head.
In Elliott’s driveway, five 3D printers sit inside a utility trailer. With each going full speed, they can produce about 10 parts from each, or about 50 per day, he said.
But along with the printing, more than 30 UTC seniors in mechanical engineering are working on creative ways to make respirators and ventilators using off-the-shelf products, Elliott said. They also are figuring out how to design a version of filtration devices like the N95 mask to fit smaller faces, he added.
“They’re designing them from scratch.”