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NEWS | April 16, 2020

Like a Good Neighbor: NSWC Corona Designs Face Shields for State Prison in Face of COVID-19

By Candice Villarreal NSWC Corona

Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC), Corona Division designed a low-cost, quick procurement face shield prototype for prison staff at an adjacent correctional facility in Norco, Calif., in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NSWC Corona Expeditionary Solution Cell (ESC), a team of engineers and scientists developing rapid engineering solutions to Navy and Marine Corps challenges, designed the face shields for California Rehabilitation Center (CRC) - Norco using computer-aided design software, 3-D printing technology and readily-available plastic document protectors available at office supply retailers nationwide.

The face shields were designed to help prison staff slow or prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the facility in a worst-case preparation scenario, bringing together federal, state and private sectors to meet emerging safety requirements at a marginal cost.

“The prison reached out and asked us if we had the capability to produce face shields to augment their current personal protective equipment (PPE) resources in case they needed them to fight the COVID-19 threat,” said Chris Curran, technical program manager for advanced/digital manufacturing at NSWC Corona’s Fallbrook, California detachment. “Within four hours, we were able to provide them with a potential solution to fit their needs.”

The team developed a precision-designed face shield prototype that could maximize available resources, minimize the number of required parts and still serve its purpose of helping to prevent droplet travel. The finalized prototype was designed to print at the fastest speeds and largest print volume settings to enable mass production at minimal costs, giving the prison an additional option to augment its supply stockpile if needed.

“Even in a situation like COVID-19, where a large part of the population is sheltering in place and some of us are teleworking, we are focused on mission accomplishment and ready to execute,” said Curran. “We leveraged three employees, all in a telework status, to design it from the ground up according to requirements, prototype it and print it to deliver a viable solution in a very short amount of time. It is very rewarding for us to be able to provide that kind of support.”

The design files were provided to the prison, which could dispatch orders to vendors in the community for a quick turnaround while simultaneously stimulating the local economy if a heightened demand signal for additional PPE were to arise.

“Normally, getting supplies is not an issue, and there are even times we can lend our services to the community,” said Lt. Robert Morales, public information officer for CRC Norco. “With COVID-19, this is kind of an extraordinary event; we wanted to make sure we were extra prepared and had options.”

Curran and his team were happy to oblige.

“We didn’t know at the time – and we still don’t know – the true level of the crisis or demand signal because it’s always evolving,” said Curran. “But when you have a capability to execute requirements that could help others in both military and civilian circles – under extraordinary circumstances – it’s very rewarding to be able to do your job and find those types of solutions.”

As the Navy's premier independent analysis and assessment agent, NSWC Corona uses measurement, analysis and assessment to enable warfighters to train, fight and win. While additive manufacturing has not traditionally served as a primary focus for the command, it is a niche that has provided the integrated warfighter with improved capabilities and real, tangible results for boots-on-the-ground operations.

“You don’t get too many opportunities to work with the Navy in the middle of the desert,” said Morales. “It’s always nice to know that during times like these, you can rely on your neighbors, communicate with them and work with them to try to solve problems.”

Curran agreed, adding he and his team wanted to design the face shields to be functional for everyday workers in facilities where there may still be a risk of spread, but who may not necessarily work in specialized healthcare environments.

“When we set out to design these shields, we did so with all sorts of employees in mind,” he said. “Whether that’s in the prison, or somewhere else where we might be able to share this design, we knew it could apply to many essential jobs that might carry risk or concern.”

NSWC Corona recently provided similar support to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, for which it designed portable medical oxygen manifolds that could be used to treat a large number of COVID-19 patients while conserving medical resources in a triage overflow scenario.

Naval Surface Warfare Center Corona, headquartered in Norco, California, is the Navy's premier independent analysis and assessment agent, using measurement, analysis and assessment to enable our warfighters to train, fight and win. The center analyzes warfare systems readiness and performance, engineers the Fleet’s Live Virtual Constructive training network and environment, and advises and administratively manages the Navy and Marine Corps metrology and calibration program. Capt. Khary Hembree-Bey commands the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) field activity with a workforce of more than 3,700 scientists, engineers, contractors and support staff.