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TCC donates 3D printers to Phoenix Spark, aids in base COVID care and Airman innovation

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Amy Younger
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The Travis Community Consortium donated a shipment of 16 3D printers to the Phoenix Spark Lab at Travis AFB, California.

Phoenix Spark will use the printers primarily to manufacture face masks and train Airmen on 3D printing and modeling.

The printers debuted in a presentation for funding contributors from the Fairfield Community Services Foundation, Travis Credit Union and Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco on Sept. 30. They are valued at $16,700.

The donation came amid a rising need for personal protective equipment for the base’s medical personnel earlier in the year, after a steep increase in COVID-19 cases within the surrounding counties caused a shortage in face masks. The ongoing PPE shortage has been particularly challenging for the installation’s hospital, David Grant USAF Medical Center.

“DGMC is one of the largest military hospitals in the nation,” said Sandy Person, TCC Industry Engagement officer. “As with most other hospitals and medical treatment facilities in the U.S., they began to run drastically low on PPE, such as face shields and face masks.”

Since February, after quarantining passengers from the Diamond Princess and Grand Princess Cruise Ships, who had been exposed to COVID-19, Travis helped combat the pandemic from the beginning—even repatriating Airmen and civilians with help from Travis’ aeromedical evacuation capabilities.

While the Air Force has adjusted well by adopting new and innovative ways to fulfill their daily mission sets, Person said, resource management is a constant concern.

“That’s why our community stepped in to donate these printers along with the supplies they need,” she said. “The communities and the installations that are thriving in these uncertain times are those that know and trust one another. We move forward by working together.”

For Staff Sgt. Max Estrada, Travis Phoenix Spark Lab noncommissioned officer in charge, the additional printers represented not only a more efficient means of protecting medical workers and other personnel, but a more sustainable workflow for the once-overwhelmed Phoenix Spark Lab.

“I think the whole team was, at one point, working 16-hour days, just printing face masks non-stop,” Estrada said. “It’s surreal to go from working our butts off to make all these masks to now having the ability to run all 16 printers on top of the five we already have, all day and night. I’m excited.”

It isn’t only the immediate mission of producing face masks that has Estrada excited about the new printers, however. Since joining the Phoenix Spark team in 2017, Estrada has become the team’s leading expert in 3D-printing technology, a field he believes has the capacity to improve the quality of life for both Airmen and members of the local community.

Estrada said their goal is to further empower units to be proactive, as well as innovative.

“Instead of Airmen wishing their unit had a tool, ordering it and maybe a year later, finally getting it,” Estrada said. “They can design it themselves and, thanks to these printers, get it a week later.

“Having these extra printers makes it possible for us to share our technology and expertise with other Airmen and civilians to empower them to make their lives easier.”

Phoenix Spark encourages all members of Team Travis interested in 3D print modeling, rapid prototyping and innovative problem-solving to attend their weekly meetings Fridays at noon in Building 181.

For more information, contact the Phoenix Spark lab at (707) 424-8920.