Serving by Printing

By Rachel Greco

JAARS has discovered a new weapon to use in the battle with COVID-19: 3D printers!

Terry Heffield, Aviation Research and Development Manager at JAARS, heard that someone was printing face shields for health professionals with a 3D printer. Comprised of a frame, elastic, bottom reinforcements, and a plastic front covering, these face shields are worn in front of a face mask to offer health personnel extra protection against the Coronavirus.

Intrigued about the potential, and already skilled in 3D printing, Terry jumped on the internet. When he typed in 3D-printed face shields, a couple of patterns from Prusa—the man who designed the 3D printers JAARS uses—popped up, and Terry began printing face shields.

Terry Heffield “printing” face shield components at home on a JAARS 3D printer.

Then God brought several other organizations together so we could impact more people in our community than if we had served the community alone. Jenny Merkey, wife of Kyle Merkey, Aviation Maintenance Machine Shop Manager at JAARS, is a leader at Covenant Day School and knew that the school uses 3D printers. Jenny also knows the man in charge of the technology department at Charlotte Latin School, which is also involved in efforts to provide community support during the COVID-19 crisis.

Face shield components

When Terry learned of Jenny’s connection with Covenant Day School, he suggested Kyle borrow some 3D printers from the school. Kyle agreed, and the next day when Terry checked with him, Kyle and his son, Trey, were already printing face shields. They are now running Covenant Day School’s four printers nonstop at their house. Kyle can print 30 face shield parts a day, and Terry can print about eight on his single, smaller printer. Thus far, Terry has printed 230 of the bottom reinforcements and 42 complete face shields. Kyle has printed about 400 bottom reinforcements and 75 complete face shields*.

Kyle Merkey and his son are using 3D printers from Covenant Day School in their home to make face shield components. Trey is a seventh-grade student at CDS.

Terry and Kyle deliver all their sanitized pieces to Charlotte Latin School. There, members of Charlotte Medi—an organization of about 45 to 50 people who have joined together to provide face masks and face shields—cut the plastic covering with laser cutters and put the face shields together. Then Charlotte Medi delivers the finished product to hospitals.

Currently the filament the men use for printing is in short supply, since so many people are printing face shields. Thankfully, Terry had ordered additional filament about six weeks ago, before the shortage began. So he and Kyle have plenty to use for now.

There’s also an elastic shortage—the part that holds the frame up is crafted from elastic. Terry and the others thought, “Oh, no. How can we fix this?”

Then an idea struck Terry: “How about if we just get a box of tourniquets because they’re elastic and good to use?” So another member of the printing team, Paul DuBois, ordered 2,500 tourniquets.

Terry modeling a completed face shield. 

Someone else must have had the same idea, because about a week later, the company told them, “I’m sorry, we’re out of stock.”

When Terry described the problem to his wife, Cheri, she suggested that they call the salvage fabric store. The store had about 300 yards of elastic as well as the thinner material necessary for face masks, so they bought some of that as well.

Terry has enjoyed this project: “It’s been great to see people outside of JAARS who have the same goal of serving [others]. You walk around the JAARS Center and you bump into people all the time who have servant hearts. Well, there’s a bunch of people in the greater Charlotte area with the same idea.”

Interested in serving your community? Email Shelley Boomhower about sewing masks here: or click here for more opportunities.

*At the time of writing this article.