Chris Sharples’ ’87 Architectural Firm Helps NYC in the Time of COVID-19

3D printing in action

Alum's firm creates protective medical-grade face shields for New York’s Weill Cornell Medicine

For a company like SHoP Architects, CNC (computer numerical control) routers are usually deployed for architectural modeling tasks. But in the heart of New York City, as COVID-19 takes its toll, Chris Sharples ’87 and his firm have repurposed the machines for something that benefits the hospitals and residents of America’s hardest-hit city.

“It is indeed a trying time for our great city,” says Sharples, founder and principal of SHoP. “People are really pulling together to find ways to support and protect our medical workers during this crisis. And like many others, we saw an opportunity to help address the need for personal protective equipment face shields.”

The firm received clearances from the FDA and New York’s Weill Cornell Medicine, and its Fab Lab began making protective medical-grade face shields on April 1. The Fab Lab cut 110 shields the first night and had 1,000 units done by this week, followed by secondary milling and packaging and creating labels and instructions. Then the batch headed to Weill Cornell Medicine.

“This process has been a great effort by our Fab Lab team,” Sharples says, noting that they took a 3D-printed design that had been circulating and found a way to optimize it for their equipment, which is much faster in this application than a 3D printer. “As the old adage goes, out of scarcity comes invention.”

Sharples says there is a lesson to be learned, one that has been illustrated in many forms along the way through the COVID-19 outbreak: From large to small operations, everyone can pitch in.

“There is so much we can learn from the DIY culture,” he says. “It may not replace large-scale manufacturing, but it can play an urgent role locally in supporting our community in our hour of need.”

Read more stories about how members of the Dickinson community near and far have responded to emerging needs and challenges during the coronavirus pandemic.


Published April 7, 2020