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In brief: Amazon is keeping its workers plenty busy amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, and one of their tasks has been to mass-produce hundreds of thousands of face shields for healthcare professionals (and, eventually, the general public). These shields are designed to help protect the eyes, nose, and mouth from virus-laden sneezes or coughs.
Amazon has already donated roughly 10,000 of these face shields to medical workers, and another 20,000 donations are planned. In addition to that, the retail giant will be producing and selling "hundreds of thousands" of additional shields "at-cost" on its own website.
Amazon says it will be able to offer the shields at a "significantly lower price" due to "design innovations" and the capabilities of its supply chain. When the shields go on sale, they will initially only be available to frontline medical workers, which is a sensible move. However, eventually, Amazon will offer them up to "all" of its customers, though that will likely take at least a couple of weeks.
So, how is Amazon producing these shields so quickly? In addition to 3D printing some core components (like headbands), the company is repurposing many of its own manufacturing machines and facilities to create the protective gear. For instance, one machine originally designed to cut "fiber materials" to create drones is now being used to carve out "screens" for the face shields.
Amazon has been consistently refining the design of its shields based on feedback from medical professionals, but the latest iteration seems to be one everyone is happy with (see it above). If you or a loved one is working on the frontlines of this pandemic, stay tuned to Amazon.com over the coming weeks to see if you can snag a shield or two to better protect yourself. We'll update this article with purchase and pricing information when Amazon makes it available.