509th Maintenance Group Airmen 3D prints the mission to success

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. David Astleford, a 509th Maintenance Group research and engineering computer-aided drafting manager, showcases a 3D printed medical face shield prototype, made by the RE shop at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, April 13, 2020. The RE shop utilized the National Institute of Health’s approved face mask as a model to create their own version of a face shield, featuring an added foam piece on the forehead to provide more comfort and using an adjustable band verses an elastic rubber one. Once approved, they plan on producing more than 300 shields to give to aid in Johnson County, Missouri’s COVID-19 medical efforts. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Sadie Colbert)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. David Astleford, a 509th Maintenance Group research and engineering computer-aided drafting manager, showcases a 3D printed medical face shield prototype, made by the RE shop at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, April 13, 2020. The RE shop utilized the National Institute of Health’s approved face mask as a model to create their own version of a face shield, featuring an added foam piece on the forehead to provide more comfort and using an adjustable band verses an elastic rubber one. Once approved, they plan on producing more than 300 shields to give to aid in Johnson County, Missouri’s COVID-19 medical efforts. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Sadie Colbert)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. David Astleford, a 509th Maintenance Group research and engineering computer-aided drafting manager, showcases a 3D blueprint for a medical face shield prototype, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, April 13, 2020. The RE shop utilized the National Institute of Health’s approved face mask as a model to create their own version of a face shield, featuring an added foam piece on the forehead to provide more comfort and using an adjustable band verses an elastic rubber one. The RE shop works 24-hour operations in order to maintain the various requests supporting other base functions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Sadie Colbert)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. David Astleford, a 509th Maintenance Group research and engineering computer-aided drafting manager, showcases a 3D blueprint for a medical face shield prototype, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, April 13, 2020. The RE shop utilized the National Institute of Health’s approved face mask as a model to create their own version of a face shield, featuring an added foam piece on the forehead to provide more comfort and using an adjustable band verses an elastic rubber one. The RE shop works 24-hour operations in order to maintain the various requests supporting other base functions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Sadie Colbert)

The 509th Maintenance Group research and development shop prints M249 Light Machine Gun belt link retainers, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, April 13, 2020. The RE shop specializes in 3D printing and take requests from different units on base to utilize their skills in creating tools, discontinued parts or rigs for specific mission requirements (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Sadie Colbert)

The 509th Maintenance Group research and development shop prints M249 Light Machine Gun belt link retainers, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, April 13, 2020. The RE shop specializes in 3D printing and take requests from different units on base to utilize their skills in creating tools, discontinued parts or rigs for specific mission requirements (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Sadie Colbert)

A 3D printer displays a digital M249 Light Machine Gun belt link retainers at the 509th Maintenance Group research and engineer shop, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, April 13, 2020. All products are reviewed by the Quality Assurance flight ensuring the products are quality and safe to utilize for the mission. The RE shop specializes in 3D printing and take requests from different units on base to utilize their skills in creating tools, discontinued parts or rigs for specific mission requirements (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Sadie Colbert)

A 3D printer displays a digital M249 Light Machine Gun belt link retainers at the 509th Maintenance Group research and engineer shop, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, April 13, 2020. All products are reviewed by the Quality Assurance flight ensuring the products are quality and safe to utilize for the mission. The RE shop specializes in 3D printing and take requests from different units on base to utilize their skills in creating tools, discontinued parts or rigs for specific mission requirements (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Sadie Colbert)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --

On an average Air Force day, Airmen with the 509th Maintenance Group research and engineering shop find themselves crafting and creating specific parts for multi-billion dollar aircraft to ensure the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber is mission ready. In the wake of COVID-19, the 509th MXG RE section has expanded its mission set to include reusable face shields.

The 509th MXG RE shop specializes in 3D printing and works with different units on base to create tools, discontinued parts or new machinery for specific mission needs.

Currently, the RE shop is working to make protective gear for the coronavirus pandemic, by posturing themselves to print more than 300 enhanced versions of 3D face shields being utilized by health institutes.

Just like private citizens within our community who support Airmen and medical providers with hand-sewn masks, the RE Airmen and 509th MXG leaders wanted to make an impactful contribution by providing reusable face shields.

“One of our Airmen came across an article talking about using the 3D machines to print out face shields, right away we knew we wanted to do the same thing for our community,” said Capt. Kenneth Pederson, the 509th MXG staff officer in charge.

The face shields the RE team created follow the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health standards.


Staff Sgt. David Astleford, a 509th MXG R&E computer-aided drafting manager, said in order to keep the mask within the NIH’s standards, the modifications were kept slight, adding a foam piece on the forehead to provide more comfort and using an adjustable band verses an elastic rubber one. Once the 509th Medical Group evaluates the prototypes, the RE team will start their production and, for the first time, will be able to provide critical equipment locally to Johnson County Missouri medical institutes and the 509th MDG physicians.

“We don’t typically get to see in the impact of our products,” said Astleford. “Usually, we make a tool and then hand it off to the customer. It’s nice to see our products make a direct impact on the mission and the community.”

Whether it’s a part for the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber or a face shield safeguarding Team Whiteman’s healthcare providers, the 509th MXG RE gets their job done, so others can do theirs.