UACES Facebook Team effort in Hot Spring County combines 3-D printing, creativity, elbow grease to make protective face shields for first responders
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June 5, 2020

Team effort in Hot Spring County combines 3-D printing, creativity, elbow grease to make protective face shields for first responders

By the U of A System Division of Agriculture 

Fast facts:

  • Cooperation among higher ed, businesses, volunteers bears fruit
  • More than 300 face shields produced, donated to first responders
  • Thornton: “So rewarding to see people pulling together and working together.” 

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MALVERN, Ark. — An idea that germinated between the stacks of books at the local library and nurtured by donated materials and good old-fashioned elbow grease, blossomed into the creation of more than 350 face shields to protect for first responders and others in Hot Spring County during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

TEAM EFFORT — Three volunteers assemble face shields at Arkansas State Three Rivers. The face shields were being donated to first responders across the county. (U of A System Division of Agriculture photo by Rachel Bearden.)

“We knew that we had a need for face shields for our first responders and those with boots on the ground,” said Dennis Thornton, Hot Spring County judge. “So, we tried to find some way that we could help.” 

Thornton said that Will Tanner, a staff member at the Malvern-Hot Spring County Library started experimenting with a small 3-D printer to see if he could make face shields. He knew Arkansas State Three Rivers had several large 3-D printers.

“If we could get access to that, we could probably assist those first responders in a big way,” he said. Thornton approached ASU Three Rivers Chancellor Steven Rook and “he was so accommodating.”

Support for the project began to snowball:

  • Forestry products company ARAUCO provided funding for materials.
  • Arkansas State University Three Rivers provided 3D printers, space to assemble and a 3-D printing supervisor, Sidney deGrasse.
  • Hot Spring County Department of Emergency Management coordinated need and distribution of masks.
  • Malvern/Hot Spring County Library, in addition to originating the idea, also helped with mask assembly. 
  • Malvern/Hot Spring County Chamber of Commerce helped coordinating funding and needs fulfillment.
  • The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, through its Hot Spring County extension office, brought in extra printers, and provided volunteers for assembly and distribution.
  • Food Center donated all the bags for individually packaging the shields.
  • Hot Spring County Conversations’ Malvern Steering Committee and Executive Committee coordinated the project. 

Sidney deGrasse, an associate of applied science at Three Rivers said “I’m just ecstatic to help the local first responders.” 

The printers were used to make the U-shaped brackets that hold the clear shield to the user’s head. The next challenge was figuring out how to make the clear shields. 

Once someone suggested using laminating sheets, the run to complete the masks began.

Volunteers punched holes in the laminating sheets and sanitized the shields before packaging them.

The first run of just over 200 shields, completed April 24, were then distributed to first responders and nursing homes. 

Not done yet
There were two runs on the 3-D printers. Rachel Bearden, Hot Spring County extension staff chair for the Division of Agriculture, said the remainder of the more than 350 masks were made May 11. 

Three-D printing is not a quick process. 

“When they first started printing the parts, the biggest concern was the time it took for the 3-D printers to run,” she said. She turned to Lori Canada, 4-H development coordinator for the Division of Agriculture, based in Little Rock. Barden said Canada “was able to get the 4-H printers from the extension Little Rock State Office and meet us with them to expedite the process.”  

“When it came time to assemble the masks, we had a few of our teen leaders come help assemble,” Bearden said. “We all wore masks, sanitized, and social distanced” following all the current guidelines to ensure safety.

Local 4-H members Faith Harmon, Hannah Riggan, Jack Berryhill, Matthew Hardage and Michael Hardage all lent a hand. 

“Our 4-Hers are excited to be able to help the community and those who are fighting on the front lines of the COVID crisis,” Bearden said. “While most of their regular activities have started to look a little different, the one thing that doesn't change is the hands of service our 4-Hers pledge to our community. This is just one small way we can continue to uphold that pledge.”  

Thornton said it’s been “so rewarding to see people pulling together and working together.”

To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit Follow us on Twitter at @UAEX_edu.


About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.  

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.   

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Chief Communications Officer
University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture