It has been a busy week. We deployed 134 shields to care homes this weekend. The 350 sheets were delivered and then cut by Dave Bates. The replacement CNC controller came. There were some issues with the Ender3 that required some downtime. I have a new printer on the way I have bought with personal funds. I have made another order of 350 sheets in addition to the 350 Dave just formed.
Finished Shields Update
With everyone's support we have delivered our first large amount this weekend with 134 shields making it to care centers in Washington and Warren counties. This increases our total in the wild to 192 deployed so far. A huge shout-out to Dan Donovan for working so hard on communications, prioritization, and helping me with deliveries. Here are where the shields have gone so far;
- 30: Warren Center
- 30: Washington Center
- 30: The Pines
- 30: Glensfalls Center
- 30: Granville Center
- 10: Holdbrook Adult Home
- 25: High Peaks Hospice
- 4: West Glens Falls EMS
- 3: Others
We are planning on giving Washington County EMS 50-60-ish shields early to mid week this week. That will leave us with 160-ish shields left for further distribution that can be made with the 350 sheets we have.
To be honest assembling 134 of these in one day was quite a bit of work. My apologies for the late night delivery for any of the centers who are reading this. This last week has felt like an eternity. Its pretty amazing finally seeing all of these shields getting finished and given to the local medical workers who need them. It's only possible because of the donations we have received.
Print Farm and New Printer
We are currently being bottle-necked by the capacity of the print farm. Things have been going faster with tuning prints and some firmware changes to allow swapping out filament more easily while prints are running. We still remain on track for getting 400 shields out in 3 weeks from starting the Go Fund Me, but the printers can only go so fast without sacrificing reliability and quality. If someone out there is willing to let me borrow their Prusa i3 mk3s so I can manage it with the others, please let me know.
The print farm had some issues along the way here. Some of the parts I printed did not stand up to the long term demands of printing with the glass beds on the ender3 and Di3+ for extended amounts of time. I had to take some downtime and print replacement parts in ABS using the Prusa 2.5s. The melting point of ABS is ~20c higher for ABS, and these have held up so far.
The Ender 3 has had a issue where the bowden Teflon tube has been repeatedly popping out of the hot end. The off-brand "copy" of the micro-swiss full metal hot-end has had problems since day 1, and I regret not spending the extra 35 dollars at the time for the real deal to avoid this problem.
Today I had plastic cool in the hot-end between the gap the Teflon tube made and could not remove it. I ended up deciding it was time to finish the Hydra direct drive upgrade which required a printed part courtesy of the Di3+ and some wire soldering. This will likely eliminate the problems I have had because the Teflon tube is super short and doesn't itself move around like a bowden does.
I have made an order for for an additional printer. A large format printer has been a long term goal of mine. To be clear, this has not been purchased with any donations for shields. I have had my student loans automatically suspended, received a government stimulus check and am still working (which I know everyone is not so fortunate). These things make the purchase a possibility now, and will help increase shield production in 2-3 weeks. I saw the shipping time for the proper parts I would need was reasonable, so I jumped.
The printer ordered is an Ender 5 plus (350mm x 350mm x 400mm). This doesn't come with a full metal hot-end and comes with a crap power supply, but altogether it should be a fantastic large format printer with only a few mods. I have also opted to replace the main board with an SKR 1.4 and TFT35 v3 so it will run quietly enough for me to sleep in the next room with the increased speed for these prints. I will be installing a proper microswiss hot-end up front, to avoid problems like I had on the Ender 3.
CNC Plastic Sheets
Dave Bates has been epic getting the shields formed and finished. It has not been lost on me that he is still working on paying orders in addition to these. The original plan had been to lean on him until my CNC got running. I am still super impressed that he turned around 350 of these in only two days.
The replacement CNC controller (grbl arduino shield) came in. It turns out that I am not crazy thinking that the first one I got from China was a dud. This one registers the proper voltage range on the DRV8825 stepper motor drivers instead of the supply voltage. I have done an initial pass and programmed it with grbl with a stepper motor turning as expected.
I will likely be able to get the CNC machine running in the next few weeks, and if that happens I might be able to take on forming the sheets myself and give Dave a break and let him get back to work that puts food on the table. But that does rely on me being competent in doing the CNC work myself.
Funds and Future Production - After Two Weeks
Now that we are playing catch-up with the 3D printers, it is a good time to determine how many sheets we can order after we consume the current 350 sheets. We are still doing okay on printer filament, but we will need to order more as we order more sheets.
Current donations at this point total $2,395 including sources outside the Go Fund Me. I have placed another order for another 350 sheets at the cost of $850, leaving us with $125 that remains unspent. This puts the total number of sheets ordered to 760. These will likely be delivered in two weeks if the first two orders are anything to go by. The new Ender 5 plus will probably play a role in getting this batch out the door faster than the previous shields.
In my opinion the Go Fund Me has been a huge success. The game plan is still to use the funds to create shields for medical workers until the money is gone. There is also the possibility that companies catch up to the demand for PPE and we wont need to make these anymore, but we are running with the mentality that this wont happen in the next couple of months.
Thank you everyone again for your support and donations. The medical workers who have gotten these have been voicing their appreciation. Each donation has made this possible.