By Colleen Williamson | Apr 7, 2020

CHETOPA — The thought that personal protective equipment shortfalls to Labette and surrounding counties could leave essential workers exposed to COVID-19 had Chetopa-St. Paul USD 505 and ZAF Energy Systems of Joplin stepping up to help.

USD 505 Superintendent Bobbi Williams said the district is working in cooperation with her oldest son, Shiloh Williams, who works with ZAF, to 3D print headbands and make face shields to distribute to essential workers.

“It’s his company that is actually doing this. We have three 3D printers, so he is over here setting our printers up with those programs to run those nonstop,” Bobbi Williams said, adding that ZAF is doing the same with some of its 3D printers.

“This will produce 30 headbands per printer in 36 hours. They just stack on top of each other then you snap them apart. There are little tabs in between each one,” Bobbi Williams said.

They will be monitored 24/7 so they can be in continual operation to meet the growing demand.

“They pretty much run themselves,” Shiloh Williams said. 

All someone has to do is remove the finished product, reload the plastic filament and start again.

Labette County USD 506 and Columbus USD 493 have donated all the transparency sheets they could find to act as a shield on the headband, and those transparencies are changeable so the headbands will last longer. Workers can change out the face shield after a couple of uses, Bobbi Williams said. 

“You can sanitize the whole thing but you can’t keep sanitizing them because of the materials. Because it is a transparency, it is not going to last as long as medical grade face shields, so they will have to change that out more frequently,” she said.

USD 505 and ZAF are donating rolls of plastic filament to make the headbands. 

“We have a request for 100 of them at this point. We’re going to distribute to the city of Chetopa, specifically their first responders,” Williams said.

In addition, they are distributing face shields to Labette Health Clinic in Chetopa, Labette Health, Parsons police and fire departments, Labette County sheriff, Good Samaritan in Parsons, Chetopa Manor, Oswego Police Department and Cherokee County sheriff.

“I heard Cherokee is going to request 100 to 120, which is going to cover basically the whole county,” Bobbi Williams said. “We are filling the orders in the order they are requested unless there is a situation more critical, obviously. We have enough to give some to all, and then we will go back and fill in the rest of their requests later.

“We can order more materials if we need to. We have a direct source out of Arkansas, again thanks to ZAF. We will just keep making them until they tell us they don’t need them.

“Always the educator, it is awesome the kids can see what the equipment in their classroom can do. It’s not just for fun to make coasters or something like that. There is a really need for this type of stuff. You can do really some amazing things with it.”