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April 13, 2020

AEP Charge Making Face Shields to Assist Healthcare Workers

Charge, AEP’s digital hub that incubates and develops innovation projects, is helping medical professionals on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic. The group has refactored one of its labs to build 3D printed, transparent protective face shields that assist healthcare workers.

After seeing countless news stories about coronavirus-related shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE), Derek Kramer, AEP vice president and chief digital officer, wanted Charge to join the fight.

“We're not licensed medical professionals,” Kramer said.  “But I think this pandemic is teaching all of us that everyone can play a role.”

Kramer said the idea came to fruition amongst AEP employees and leaders on a Friday. Designs were created the following Saturday morning with prototypes printed that evening. By Sunday, Kramer was visiting whatever stores were open for elastic bands that keep the face shields attached to the head.

“We're using regular elastic bands that you would use for sewing or other things,” Kramer said. “We also added a neoprene foam to the inside. We’ve seen some pretty harrowing images of faces that are cut up by wearing PPE for prolonged periods of time and we wanted these to be comfortable.”

The finished product includes an embossed “AEP Cares” around the headband.

Due to physical distancing, about six Charge employees are working from separate locations on the effort. The work includes printing and design, and tracking down materials to make the shields. Employees, including Kramer, are taking shifts to visit the lab and remove the completed face shields. When done, workers then refill the printer with plastic filament to make more.

“Our printers are working 24/7,” Kramer said. “We just keep them going as quickly as we possibly can to keep production high.”

Currently, Charge can produce about 200 face shields a week. Kramer said he is proud of the group and the work it’s providing.

“If it's staying at home in a safe orbit, jumping in and developing PPE or taking groceries to a neighbor in need – we’re all doing our part,” Kramer said. “There's a million things people can do and Charge is born out of this idea that we're here to help. So how can we not be a part of this?”