Bored students 3D print masks amid supply shortage

A student and teacher at Wisconsin’s Boyceville High School are doing their part to combat the coronavirus with 3D printed masks designed to amplify the current short supply.

Teacher Andy Hamm told WQQW he’s working with senior Cade Klefstad to print a design that uses a smaller amount of material from an N95 mask to make a total of six masks, and they’re giving them away to local police and first responders.

“Basically what this mask is doing is it’s channeling the airflow into a smaller area, so you only have to use a smaller section of the mask,” Klefstad said.

Hamm said the project was inspired by medical professionals pleading for help online.

“The President of Massachusetts General Hospital put out a call on Twitter calling everybody that has 3D printers, (saying) we need you to help print personal protective equipment,” he told WQQW.

The printing process takes about 10 hours for three masks, and they’re just getting started, with four masks donated so far to the Boyceville Police Department.

“We’re hoping that other people, maybe fire, EMS, other people who are interacting with individuals who may have been exposed to the virus may be interested in this,” Hamm said.

The duo told the news site they’ve ordered enough supplies to make 100 or more masks, but the hope is the work and publicity inspires others with 3D printers to contribute, as well.

Others in schools across the country are already on it.

Ayan Gupta, a senior at Tesla STEM High School is running one of his school’s 3D printers at his house to make clips that hold cotton protective masks. The 17-year-old and is among more than a dozen students using the printers to produce about 150 masks per day, GeekWire reports.

The teens set up a GoFundMe campaign to fund supplies for the operation, with the goal of raising $1,500. The total raised eclipsed $8,200 on Tuesday.

“That was very surprising,” Gupta told the news site. “We were already super happy. But when we saw people keep donating and donating and donating. It was kind of amazing to feel the outpouring of support from the community. And that just kind of really helped us kickstart our production really fast.”

Other students are small scale, using their own machines to do what they can and avoid the boredom of virus-imposed home confinement.

Florida teen Michael Mills told the Herald-Tribune he wanted to do something constructive while stuck at home, so he found a design for a face shield online and got to work.

“I’m trying to do it round the clock but I obviously have to sleep,” the 18-year-old said.

The plastic face shields are similar to ones worn by dentists and cost about 60 cents each to produce, and add a layer of protection that makes a big difference.

“If someone is taking care of a sick person in their home, the homemade face shield along with a mask is very effective,” G. Steve Huard, spokesman for the Florida Department of Health, told the news site.

This piece was written by Victor Skinner on April 1, 2020. It originally appeared in and is used by permission.

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