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By Bryan Hay

Lafayette College’s Engineering Division is doing its part in the broader community effort to help supply needed equipment to local medical professionals on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Set up off campus, the 10 3D printers from LeopardWorks in Acopian Engineering Center have been producing disposable stethoscopes for St. Luke’s University Health Network and face shields for Easton Hospital.

“The idea of utilizing Lafayette’s 3D printer fleet came about because of the very unfortunate lack of PPE (personal protective equipment) at local hospitals and in the U.S. at large,” says Adam Smith, engineering technician, who assists faculty and students on research and design projects. 

“Globally there has been an explosion of prototypes and fast-track PPE solutions created by engineers, makers, and volunteers worldwide. It became obvious to me that Lafayette could contribute in some small part to this larger effort,” he says. “It is important for the global community to come together right now, and I thought it was important for Lafayette engineering to be a part of that.”

With Scott Hummel, William Jeffers Director of the Engineering Division, and in coordination with Melissa Starace, assistant to the president for board and community relations, a collaboration began with Megan Augustine, director of the Network Simulation Center at St. Luke’s. 

Lafayette was guided by the 3D-printed stethoscope design developed in 2018 by Dr. Tarek Loubani, associate professor at Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry in London, Ontario. Augustine shared the design, with the hope that the stethoscopes could be produced and used by medical staff treating COVID-19 patients. 

“I anticipated that they would want us to produce the widely adopted face shield designs that are being 3D printed worldwide,” Smith says. “However, St. Luke’s was already collaborating with other resources in the area to produce face shields and asked Lafayette to be their first resource in producing 3D-printed stethoscopes. We printed off a few samples, and after a short test period they requested mass production.”

The 3D-printed parts include: a head, two ear tubes, a y-piece to join them, and a spring. The parts are handled with washed hands and bagged. “The virus can last on surfaces for 72 hours. So, as a precaution, we keep them for that period before delivering them to the hospital,” Smith says. “When they arrive, the final assembly is completed by adding silicone tubing, a diaphragm, and ear tips.”

A stethoscope printed on a Lafayette 3D printer

Five of the LeopardWorks printers are at Smith’s home, producing stethoscopes, and the other five are turning out face shields at the home of Marvin Snyder, supervisor of the engineering shop. Just recently, Brent Utter assistant professor of mechanical engineering, Joe Woo, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, Jon Macasevich, library technology specialist, and Yusuf Dahl, Bradbury Dyer, III ’64 Director for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, have joined the effort with their 3D printers. 

The first batch of stethoscope pieces was delivered to St. Luke’s last week.

“With the printers at home, we can print parts for two complete stethoscopes on one printer in nine hours,” says Snyder, who will join Smith in making stethoscopes once the face shield order is fulfilled. “On a good day, doing two batches on each of the printers, we can do around 30-40 stethoscopes. It’s just giving back to the community for a needed cause the best way we can with the support of Lafayette College.”

The biggest challenge has been sourcing all the material. 

“We are not the only 3D print shop churning out PPE or medical equipment, and supplies are running low,” Smith notes. “I want to thank Colt Houser (accounting technician, civil and environmental engineering) for hustling around at all hours of the day trying to source materials for us. We would be lost without all his help.”

Another hurdle, he says, has been dialing in the perfect settings for polyethylene terephthalate, one of the thermoplastics used in 3D printing.

“Lafayette’s support and response to this need has been great.,” says Augustine, adding that the medical equipment is being used as needed across St. Luke’s network.

Smith was overjoyed when St. Luke’s deemed the first prototype a success. 

“My wife is a nurse, and the lack of PPE is scary for everyone who knows someone in the medical profession,” he says. “Even though the stethoscopes don’t directly aid the PPE crisis, they will help reduce transmission of the virus since they are disposable. Being able to contribute in any way to fighting this pandemic feels great, especially since many of us are working remotely and feel helpless to the situation, as a whole.”

Smith has always held a great deal of pride and satisfaction working for the Lafayette engineering division. But that feeling is even more intense these days.

“Being able to leverage the time I spend working remotely to serve a cause like this has been amazing,” he says. “I’m very fortunate to have the support of the leadership at Lafayette to serve in this endeavor.” 

In addition to the 3D-printed medical equipment, the College also has made other PPE donations from its labs in recent days:

67 boxes of gloves (16,750—each box has 250 gloves)

10 gallons of bleach

2 gallons of alcohol that Easton’s fire department is using to make hand sanitizer

7 containers of Clorox wipes

36 N95 masks

2 face shields

200 material masks

200 goggles

100+ disposable lab coats


Items were distributed to St. Luke’s University Health Network, Lehigh Valley Health Network, Lafayette College’s public safety and health center, City of Easton fire, police, EMS, and its community partners—Third Street Alliance, Easton Area Neighborhood Center, and Safe Harbor, all of which are helping the homeless with PPE supplies.

Sewers encouraged to make face masks

Those with sewing skills and supplies on hand are encouraged to produce cloth masks for medical workers, EMTs, assisted care facilities, firefighters, police, local nonprofits, etc. Volunteers residing in the Lehigh Valley area who need assistance in making contact with such agencies should contact Melissa Starace, assistant to the president for board and community relations, who will provide information on community needs and delivery locations.


Categorized in: Academic News, COVID-19 News, Engineering, Faculty and Staff, Featured News, News and Features
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1 Comment

  1. Brooke says:

    Way to go students, Melissa and all of the Lafayette community! Great to see the College’s people using the spectacular resources in such a meaningful way for our community!!! THANK YOU ALL and stay well!!

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