Academy of Art University Students Use 3D Technology to Produce Face Shields for Front-line Workers

April 10th, 2020 – San Francisco, CA: Academy of Art University instructors and students put their creative resourcefulness to action as they use 3D printers to create face shields that will be donated to San Francisco hospital front-liners. Faced with the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Academy’s team lead by Max Niehaus, Industrial Design Shop Manager and instructor at the Academy, started prototyping face shields with the 3D printers. Earlier this week, he delivered the first set of face shields to Saint Francis Memorial Hospital to be tested and approved by their workers.

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Max Niehaus wearing a 3D-printed face shield

Maximizing Resources

Academy of Art University has had a close relationship with Saint Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco, and Niehaus became aware of their need for face shields for their doctors and nurses. He came up with an idea to utilize 3D printers which were sitting idle due to the transition of on-site classes to the online program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Industrial Design Shop at Academy of Art University has nineteen 3D printers from Prusa, Formlabs, Ultimaker, Projet, and other manufacturers, ranging in price from $1,000 to a quarter of million dollars, which are usually used to instruct the Academy’s students in product design and automobile design.

“I’m proud to see our entire university come together to produce potentially life-saving equipment,” said Niehaus. “Students, faculty, and technicians from the Schools of  Industrial Design, Jewelry, Architecture, and Sculpture have worked tirelessly to see this through. The online 3D-printing community’s open source ethos allowed us to get started, and we look forward to sharing our work with other institutions.”

After some research, he came across the 3D printed face shield design produced by a Swedish company that uses PLA Silament and 8 ½” x 11” Polycarbonate sheets. He decided to adopt this design because it requires a fewer extra parts, involved a shorter production time, and received positive reviews from hospitals around the world.

Max Niehaus at Industrial Design Shop

Crisis Response

On Friday, April 3rd, Niehaus’ team provided Saint Francis Memorial Hospital with some prototypes for testing. After making necessary modifications to meet their special requirements, the 3D printed face shields received approval from the hospital. His team aims to produce 100 masks a week to fulfill demands from healthcare workers and front-end workers as well as first responders, firefighters, and police in the local community.

Students, faculty, and staff from School of Industrial design and School of Jewelry & Metal Arts who have a 3D printer at their home have been invited to join this initiative. The face shields produced by them have been collected at Industrial Design Shop for sterilization and assembly. To date, his team has delivered 100 face shields to the hospital and more are expected to come.

Max Niehaus delivering the face shields at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital

About Academy of Art University

Established in 1929, Academy of Art University is one of the largest private accredited art and design schools in the nation. Located in San Francisco, the epicenter of culture and technology, Academy of Art University offers more than 135 accredited degree programs spanning 40 areas of study, including entertainment arts, advertising, fashion, architecture, game development, music, communication, photography and more.  For more information, please visit

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