Sociology Professor Andrew Gladfelter Uses His Free Time to Create and Donate Personal Protective Equipment to Frontline Workers

Over the past month, if he’s not teaching, William Paterson University sociology professor Andrew Gladfelter is providing hundreds of frontline workers with much-needed personal protective equipment in the fight against COVID-19. And it all started with the purchase of a long-awaited item from his wish list.

 “I had wanted a 3D printer for quite some time, but I could never really justify buying one,” Gladfelter explains. “But as I was following the pandemic around the world, I noticed that several communities were printing supplies for front-line workers, so that was the incentive I needed.”

With that, he dedicated his personal time to testing several design templates and soliciting feedback from local healthcare workers. After a few trials, he settled on a model vetted by the National Institute of Health and began printing. In his first print run, Gladfelter was able to print one face shield every four hours, but he strived to make his equipment more efficient. Following a few adjustments, Gladfelter can now churn out a face shield in just over an hour.

“Once the quality and speed were improved, I reached out on my town’s (North Haledon, NJ) Facebook page to see if anyone needed supplies,” Gladfelter says. “With the recommendations from our neighbors, we have shipped 440 face shields and have another 30 waiting to be delivered.”

In addition to the face shields, Gladfelter has also printed over 1,000 face mask strap extenders to alleviate ear pain from extended wear—a common discomfort for front-line workers working long shifts.

From hospitals to law enforcement, recipients of Gladfelter’s protective equipment have been quick to show their gratitude. After a batch of face shields made their way to Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville, labor and delivery nurses sent pictures in the masks as a way to show their appreciation.

“There is a lot of emotion involved,” says Gladfelter, who has since purchased a second home printer to keep up with demand. “It’s a very powerful feeling to know that this small act of generosity is making a difference on the ground. It’s very humbling. I’m just doing what I can with the resources I have to try and fill this gap in equipment that exists.”

Gladfelter hopes his efforts serve as a model for those who want to give back but may not know where to start. In his own words: “Think outside the box.”