May 14, 2020

This California family turned their house into a mini PPE factory using 3D printers

A maker at heart, Allstate agent Danny Day and his family started a 3D-printing operation in their home in response to COVID-19. So far they've donated 4,000 face shields to health workers and other vulnerable populations.

Redding, California, Allstate agent Danny Day and his daughter Rileigh, 9, deliver PPE to local hospitals, nursing homes, and individuals who need extra protection during the COVID-19 pandemic. The family used their 3D printers to make PPE from their home. Photos courtesy of the Day family

For Danny Day, it made sense to reach out to his local hospital to offer help. As the nation began shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Day saw the same headlines over and over again: that hospitals were in need of new PPE, or personal protective equipment. Day, who owns an Allstate agency in Redding, California, learned that his local hospital was having difficulty purchasing new face shields due to a bidding process that drove up prices. He thought, why not just make them.

“We’re makers and we’re really big into 3D printing as a hobby and we’d already heard of some friends of ours in Europe who were making this type of stuff,” said Day. “I started wondering, could our local hospital, or Urgent Care Center, even buy something like that on the open market because of how much competition there is for [PPE].”

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Working with the infection control team at his local hospital, Mercy Medical Center, Day was able to create an all-plastic face shield that’s easy to adjust and clean. Using their four 3D printers, the Day family completed their first batch of 25 face shields and delivered them to Mercy on March 28.

At one point, the Days had 14 3D printers operating almost around the clock, only cooling down for a few hours a night. "Luckily we had good weather as our house was like wind tunnel for two months," Day said.

Four days later, local TV station KRCR ran a story about the Days’ endeavor. “From that moment on, every morning I would wake up to phone call after phone call begging for face shields from all over California,” Day said.

At their peak, the family was running 14 printers, 21 hours a day, producing 60 face shields each run. The company that manufactures the printers, Craftunique, donated several printers for this usage. Day also was able to get a grant for free filament, the plastic used to make the objects, from 3D Solutech.

“Our home turned into a factory. It’s slowly becoming a home again,” Day said. In total, he estimates they’ve printed 4,000 face shields.

At their printing peak, Danny Day estimates they were going through nearly 50 rolls of filament a week. "Getting the plastic was harder to get than toilet paper, because everybody wanted it," he said.

The Days donated PPE to hospitals, nursing homes, and individuals—anyone who asked.

Day got into 3D printing about five years ago to support another hobby—racing drones. He found himself constantly needing new parts for his fliers, so it just made sense to make them himself. Pretty soon his daughter Rileigh, who’s now 9, got into it, too. She would make toys for her dad’s office—fidget spinners to keep kids occupied while their parents discussed insurance options.

“We just had a blast with it. She was making stuff and I was making stuff and then I said, well this is a good hobby, this is fun, let’s get another printer. Let’s get a better one.” Day said. “For the last few years we’ve always had four or five 3D printers around the house.”

As much of an enthusiast as her dad, fourth grader Rileigh was a big part of her family’s PPE operation. The way Day sees it, this is a moment in history she will remember.

“They will talk about the things that people did—making things, just like they did in the war effort. Families made things. Moms went to factories and worked,” he said. “You had a factory in your house. … You made a mark.”

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