General-use shield for protection against coronavirus: igus produces headbands for face shields

April 16, 2020

April 16, 2020 – igus is donating 100,000 headbands made with injection molding to apply to face masks to help medical professionals reduce their exposure during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Prusa, a 3D printer manufacturer, has developed a face mask and placed the design on the internet for downloading, free of charge. The mask can be used to protect physicians, nursing personnel and other healthcare providers who work directly with patients. The goal is to produce as many face shields as possible with 3D printing.

igus, the Germany-based motion plastics manufacturer, is assisting the effort by producing headbands. More than 10,000 components leave the Cologne factory each week to accelerate assistance to healthcare professionals. The headbands help to hold the personal protective equipment in place while healthcare workers assist the patient.

Injection molding enables cost-effective mass production of face shields

It is extremely easy to make a face shield: a 3D printed plastic strap holds a replaceable sheet of plastic film that shields the face. The face shield is not a substitute for a protective mask that covers the mouth; such a mask has to be worn additionally.

However, the face shields do provide additional protection, especially for the eyes. They also guard against the natural instinct to touch one’s face and thus come into close contact with the virus. 

Despite the simple design, a central challenge remains. “Several makers asked us whether we, as a tribo-filament manufacturer, could provide them with material,” says Tom Krause, Head of Business Unit Additive Manufacturing at igus, looking back. “But that does not solve the real problem, which is that, if a 3D printer is used, production of the headband as a central component is comparatively expensive and takes more than two hours. This means that only a few parts can be made per day.”

This is why igus has decided to rely on the advantages of another method, namely injection molding. Material recycled from iglide A200 is used as the material. Dr. Thilo Schultes, who is in charge of toolmaking, says “With the right tool, it is possible to manufacture and ship out more than 10,000 headbands per week from the Cologne factory. As a result, we are able to mass-produce the headbands quickly at considerably reduced costs.” igus is manufacturing the headband at its own expense. The first 100,000 headbands are available free of charge, after which, they will be available at the cost of production. If net yields are achieved, they will be donated to a good cause.