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People are 3D printing their own protective equipment

Posted at 6:38 PM, Mar 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-26 19:41:06-04

MUSKEGON, Mich. — With hospitals and all corners of healthcare struggling to keep up with demand for personal protection equipment, people are being forced to get creative.

From his home in Muskegon, Chris Kaminsky is doing his part. With a small arsenal of 3-D printers, he’s making his own face shields with designs he found online.

“They’re a dime-a-dozen now,” he said. “You go online you’ll find a thousand of these now.”
The designs take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours to print. Kaminsky, who runs the Lakeshore Fab Lab, a community maker space partnered with Muskegon Community College, has the equipment and the know-how to crank out roughly 100-200 per day.

“It’s kind of a better-than-nothing approach,” he said.

The 3-D printers work like a hot glue gun – taking the spool of material and literally spinning it into the desired design, which is uploaded to the printer itself. In the end, Kaminsky is left with a face mask piece that he connects to a simple office-supply shield for a final product.

And he’s not alone in doing it. Jack Russell and his stepson Keigan Murphy are using their at-home 3-D printers to make similar designs they too found online.

“We knew these were out on the free market so we said, ‘how can we help?’” said Russell. “It’s better than nothing. We’re hearing that people are using bandanas of all things, that’s the best thing they have. Well this is way better.”

Kaminsky and Russell both agree, this is only a buffer to certified personal protective equipment. The printed shields aren’t certified, but with stories coming out of emergency rooms of doctors and nurses having to reuse approved masks because of the shortage, they’re willing to offer the literal extra layer of help.

“Even in you have the approved M-95 mask, this will at least prolong how long you can use that,” said Russell. “The hospitals are going to run out, and they may change their tune a little bit to say, ‘we would love to have something like that to protect our employees.’”

The potential of 3-D printed personal protection equipment reaches far beyond the emergency rooms and hospital halls. More niche healthcare workers like hospice, nursing home and elder care employees are lower on the pecking order for the much-desires PPE.

“Last night I drove out and met a lady who was a hospice manager for a company, and she was thrilled to get these because they’re kind of on the low totem pole, I guess, to get PPE stuff,” said Kaminsky. “It’s really changing the lives of our healthcare workers and I don’t think a lot of the public’s aware of that.”

Kaminsky says he’s already delivered 50 face shields to Bronson Hospital, and the facility is testing and validating to see if they want more.

As of right now Kaminsky and Russell are fronting the costs for their own materials. If you’d like to help, reach out to Kaminsky at christopherwkaminsky@gmail.com .