NASCAR Industry to Make Face Shields for COVID-19 Response
Jeffrey Heimgartner posted on April 27, 2020 |
NASCAR temporarily transitions its Research and Development Center into a production site.

Instead of the usual roaring crowds, engines revving and professional drivers racing to the finish lines, the 30 NASCAR tracks remain silent. Although the cars may not be moving, the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C., is using its high-tech resources to produce face shields for health care workers on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think NASCAR is in a unique position across the industry, especially at the Cup (Series) level, where you have some of the best fabricators and engineers in the world,” said Eric Jacuzzi, senior director of aerodynamics at the NASCAR R&D Center. “We have all this capability to make parts for cars and testing, so you have a high talent pool and the machinery and people needed to do it. That’s what really puts us in a unique spot to be able to help out.”

At the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C., just outside Charlotte, its team of literal rocket scientists, engineers and high-tech thinkers have switched from researching automobiles to trying to help solve problems, such as the need for face shields during the coronavirus pandemic. (Image courtesy of NASCAR.)
At the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C., just outside Charlotte, its team of literal rocket scientists, engineers and high-tech thinkers have switched from researching automobiles to trying to help solve problems, such as the need for face shields during the coronavirus pandemic. (Image courtesy of NASCAR.)

As word quickly spread of the need for face shields, NASCAR R&D soon realized its 3D printers could serve a higher calling. After communicating with others in the industry and researching the manufacturers of the parts, a design was developed within days. It is now producing hundreds of face shields per day.

Those efforts proved to be just the start of the industry as a whole pitching in. Technique Inc. of Jackson, Mich., which provides chassis part tools for NASCAR, was approached about the same subject. Within 96 hours, a team developed a process and began shipping parts. Since NASCAR’s R&D Center has limited resources and manpower, the Technique team is filling orders that NASCAR is not able to fulfill. The company is producing around 20,000 face shields per day.

Technique Inc., in Jackson, Mich., is producing 20,000 face shields per day. (Image courtesy of NASCAR.)
Technique Inc., in Jackson, Mich., is producing 20,000 face shields per day. (Image courtesy of NASCAR.)

While NASCAR has some limitations when it comes to the face shields, including social distancing practices and materials for the shields, it is producing what it can and has also begun exploring more uses for its 3D printers. The team created a model of a 50th percentile female human head for research purposes.

“We added an airway and everything in it so that Wake Forest University can test how well these improvised surgical masks people are making—how well they actually work compared to the medical equivalence,” Jacuzzi said.

The NASCAR R&D Center 3D printed a human head that Wake Forest University is using for further research and testing of the coronavirus and the tools used to treat it. ((Image courtesy of NASCAR.)
The NASCAR R&D Center 3D printed a human head that Wake Forest University is using for further research and testing of the coronavirus and the tools used to treat it. ((Image courtesy of NASCAR.)

Others in the racing industry have also heeded the call to help. Roush Fenway Racing has developed and begun producing plastic protective aerosol “transport” boxes, as well as donated N95 masks and safety glasses. Other firms contributing to face shield production include Keselowski Advanced Manufacturing and CORE Autosport. The Joey Logano Foundation and Elevation Outreach have partnered to create a $1 million COVID-19 response and recovery fund.

Interested in more ways that industries are stepping up to create solutions during the pandemic? Check out Data Centers are Essential in COVID-19 Fight and Engineers and Manufacturers Develop Solutions to Mask Shortages.

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