Apple shares design files on how to make face shields

Technology giant donates more than 2 million shields and targets assembly of one million more per week

A nurse wearing protective clothing and face mask takes care of a COVID-19 patient at the Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) department in the Karolinska hospital in Solna, near Stockholm, Sweden, on April 19, 2020 during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. / AFP / Jonathan NACKSTRAND

Technology giant Apple shared design files and manufacturing guides for making face shields on its website to encourage other manufacturers to help meet a shortage during the current Covid-19 pandemic.

A page titled ‘Make your own face shield’ tells companies how they can create the protective headgear that is widely used by medical professionals and other frontline workers.

The company, which started producing face shields in the first week of this month, recommends the materials and dimensions to be used for the guard, forehead band and strap to ensure the best results.

“Laser cutting, die cutting, water jetting and drag knife are all potential methods for manufacturing the face shields, forehead bands and silicone straps. Other 2D cutting methods may be suitable as well,” Apple said.

“Ensure the material you use is optically clear and does not crack when folded.”

However, the company noted that each manufacturing method poses “unique safety risks” and one should not try to develop a face shield at home.

“Manufacturing the face shields requires professional level expertise in manufacturing and design, and should only be done by professional engineers or machinists in a factory environment,” it added.

So far, Apple has donated more than 2 million face shields, the company’s chief executive Tim Cook told his employees during a virtual meeting last Thursday. It is expected to assemble up to one million units per week.

Each face shield is assembled in less than two minutes and the California-based company is sourcing material for manufacturing from the US and China, Mr Cook said. The company has also donated 30 million face masks.

“We are closely coordinating with medical professionals and government officials across the US to get these [face shields] where they are needed the most. Our goal is to quickly expand distribution beyond the US,” Mr Cook said in a Twitter message earlier this month.

In a rare partnership, Apple teamed up with Google earlier this month to introduce a contact-tracing technology to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

The first phase of this technology, which will warn users if they have been near an infected person, is expected to go live in May.

Last month, Apple also released a new screening tool and set of resources to help people stay informed and take the proper steps to protect their health during the spread of the coronavirus.

Apple's Covid-19 app and website allow users to answer a series of questions about risk factors, recent exposure and symptoms for themselves or a loved one. The site gives recommendations, including guidance on social distancing and how to closely monitor symptoms.

There have now been more than 2.4 million reported cases of Covid-19 globally and over 165,000 deaths as of Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking its spread. More than 625,000 have recovered from the virus.