Needing as much help as possible during the COVID-19 outbreak, Tennessee College of Applied Technology Morristown is helping keep Tennessee health professionals protected using 3D printers.

Along with the TCAT Elizabethton, Jackson, Murfreesboro and Shelbyville, as well as Jackson State and Pellissippi State Community colleges, the campus’ have manufactured, using 3D printers, 858 headbands from Saturday through Monday afternoon that will be used for plastic face shields for health professionals.

“It is fantastic to be part of the solution. I want the community to know that we are working with other colleges in Tennessee to help anyway we can during this COVID-19 outbreak,” President of TCAT Morristown Jerry Young said. “We are going to continue this process and continue to help anyway we can. The process started Saturday for us. We are averaging 50 per day right now and have had some excellent support from Morristown East and Morristown West, who had the 3D printers that we needed. Starting today, we should be able to produce around 80 per day.”

The project, which was announced by Gov. Bill Lee Monday afternoon, is part of Lee’s plan to find new ways to serve Tennesseans during this outbreak. The Tennessee Higher Education Commission began locating 3D printers to use last week to help produce personal protective equipment, like the face shields, and to mitigate the potential risk of medical supply shortages in Tennessee.

The headbands being produced are being sent to Austin Peay State University, which is where the prototype originated. At Austin Peay, the headbands will be attached to the plastic face shields. The first batch of face shields are set to be delivered on Wednesday to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. TEMA will then transport them to healthcare facilities and professionals who are facing shortages of the equipment.

“When Governor Lee and THEC Executive Director Mike Krause asked us to join this important work last week, our colleges - all of whom were busy preparing for the shift to online education - stepped up, expanded their focus and jumped into action to help,” Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Dr. Flora Tydings said in a release. “Many nurses, doctors and other health professionals are alumni of our colleges and we’re delighted to help protect them and their colleagues who are doing so much to protect us all.

“It all goes to show the strength of our team, and when we need to, we can be an army assisting in our state’s overall effort in fighting coronavirus and COVID-19.”

Along with the headbands, the colleges are also providing protective gear, including protective suits. The Tennessee Higher Education Commission says that East Tennessee State University, Tennessee Technological University, the University of Memphis and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville are also participating.

“We sent the pattern to our campuses on Friday and faculty started producing the headbands Saturday,” said TBR vice chancellor of economic and development and interim president of TCAT Memphis Dr. Carol Puryear in a release. “Faculty members worked through the weekend and we have made more than 850. I cannot say enough about the dedication and hard work of our faculty involved in this effort. They’re working virtually around the clock.”