Good Samaritans borrow unused school machines to 3D-print coronavirus masks, shields
Nationwide shortages of face masks, shields and personal protective equipment is inspiring an impressive response from locals working feverishly to purchase, repair, stitch and sew items to donate to healthcare and other frontline workers impacted by the novel coronavirus.
Now, some creative thinkers are putting technology to a humanitarian use, enlisting help from 3D printers in the creation of face masks, filters and shields that can be distributed to healthcare workers and other essential business employees.
Two local efforts are underway to 3D print protective gear using school printers that have lain dormant since area campuses closed in March during the pandemic.
La Cañada High School junior JT Salcido recently learned about the effort and wanted to join in. He contacted a physician at Keck Medicine of USC to determine the need and soon had a list of items to print.
There was just one problem — the 17-year-old didn’t own a 3D printer of his own. Undaunted, Salcido reached out to LCHS science teacher Ryan Hainey, who had a machine in his classroom.
“Within a few hours he got back to me and said, ‘I like your idea, but it’s school property,’” the teen recalled.
After some discussion, La Cañada High Principal Jim Cartnal sanctioned a temporary loan of two campus 3D printers and some printer filament. Salcido experimented with patterns and programs until he’d created a headband into which a clear, plastic visor could be snapped to form a face shield.
“Ever since Friday morning the printer’s been on,” the teen reported by phone Monday, the sounds of whirs and screeches audible in the background.
Each unit takes about an hour to print and roughly costs $1.50. To help pay for supplies, Salcido and mom Sandy Whitney started a campaign on GoFundMe, called “LCHS Cares: COVID-19 Relief.”
Their initial goal was $1,100 but by Wednesday, 67 donors had raised nearly $3,700. That same day Salcido secured another two MakerBot 3D printers from the school and plans to ramp up production.
Cartnal said while school policy typically prohibits the use of school equipment for private purposes, Salcido’s request was anything but typical.
“When you have an opportunity to make a judgment call that materially helps people, you should,” he said. “The battle to fight the coronavirus is a call to arms on all of our parts — all the kids involved recognize their actions matter and are looking for ways to have their agency felt.”
A similar Good Samaritan effort is underway at Pasadena’s Maranatha High School, where faculty member Miguel Almena is using equipment from the campus’ Technology Integration Learning Environment Lab to print high-filtration masks for Kaiser Hospital in Downey.
Armed with print files and a plan, and able to work from home, Almena got administrative permission to print masks that can be sanitized and reused. He also ordered disposable hospital-grade filtration squares that can be inserted into each unit.
Now, Maranatha is encouraging others who may have access to their own 3D printers to visit sites like makethemasks.com to learn more about how to contribute to the cause.