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Phillips 66 boosts grassroots efforts to make protective gear

Phillips 66 has three words for the DIYers with 3D printers who are making protective gear for the pandemic's front lines: We’re with you.

Phillips 66 refineries in California, Montana and Louisiana all have allocated funds to go toward grassroots efforts to use 3D printers to make gear like face masks and face shields. Those efforts gathered steam after news emerged that there was a dire shortage of this personal protective equipment, or PPE, for health care workers and first responders.

“Safety of the front-line workers in our community is a top priority for us and these 3D printers are an innovative way to meet that challenge,” said Phillips 66 Los Angeles Refinery General Manager Tim Seidel.

Phillips 66 already has donated its surplus PPE to front-line workers and announced earlier this month it was donating $3 million to COVID-19 relief efforts.

The National Institutes of Health, in partnership with other agencies and organizations, has posted PPE models that have been reviewed for clinical use on the NIH 3D Print Exchange. Legions of volunteers have used those to step up and fill the supply gaps. The PPE is made using filament, a thermoplastic feedstock.

California: 'Stretching every dollar'

The Phillips 66 Los Angeles Refinery contributed $25,000 to the Maker Response Hub, a network of 3D printer users, for the donation of at least 5,000 face shields for area hospitals and first responders. The members of the network, using their own time and money, had been making PPE since the pandemic emerged and so far have donated over 27,000 face shields across the U.S.

MatterHackers, the 3D printer retailer that created the Maker Response Hub, said the Phillips 66 donation would be used by the volunteers to purchase additional supplies.

“Our goal is to get as many of these face shields out into the world as possible,” said MatterHackers Director of Business Development Mara Hitner. “There’s no shortage of need, so it’s just a matter of stretching every dollar we can.”

Louisiana: Young artists step up

A previous donation from the Phillips 66 Alliance Refinery in Belle Chasse, Louisiana, had been used by the Louisiana Young Arts & Young Authors (LAYAYA) nonprofit arts organization to purchase laptops with 3D printing software. When the refinery heard that children in the program were using the printers to make PPE for front-line workers, it allocated another $1,000 for filament and other supplies.

“These kids are so excited to be a part of something and this is exactly the type of engineering we were hoping to inspire with the original donation,” said Alliance Communications and Public Affairs Advisor Tristan Babin.

LAYAYA Director Joannie Hughes said volunteers are running both printers in the studio 20 hours a day, in shifts.

“We’re producing masks, filter covers and face shields for our first responders and those on the forefront of this crisis in our community,” she said. “We could not do this without your support.”

Montana: Giving a sense of relief

The Phillips 66 Billings Refinery in Montana donated $5,000 to the Billings Clinic Foundation to assist in the production of PPE, including reusable plastic masks.

The Billings Clinic, a physician-led practice, originally started producing masks with 3D printers and has since shifted to using an injection-molding machine, which melts FDA-approved plastic into a mold in a quicker process. Between both methods, nearly 20,000 masks have been made available to Billings’ front-line workers and volunteers.

“In addition to mitigating the mask shortage, the production of the masks has had a good effect psychologically, even for me, knowing that even if there is a mask shortage, we still have options,” said Billings Clinic Neurosurgeon Dusty Richardson, who worked on designing the masks.