Local Citizens Unite to 3D Print Face Masks – And You Can Help

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Above: A home 3D printer used for printing emergency face masks.

Christian Palasty, the Director of Technology for East Lansing Public Schools, and Melissa Rabideau, the founder of TinkrLAB, have had a strong working relationship for years. They regularly collaborate on a 3D printer and laser cutting program at East Lansing schools.

In response to the recent COVID-19 outbreaks, Rabideau and Palasty reached out to each other. They realized they could do more than print school projects – they could use their machines to assist a community in need.

“[TinkrLAB] latched on to the idea at the same time we did so we decided to join forces,” Palasty said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for the school and TinkrLAB to partner up and do some good.”

They were inspired to use the fourteen 3D printers at East Lansing Public Schools to make N-95 masks for hospital workers in the area, for those working in close proximity to patients. The masks are being printed based on files that are readily available on the internet, one which Palasty found online from a doctor in Montana and another that was published in a CNN news story.

“We download those to our 3D printers and get everything prepped and then we start printing them out,” Palasty said.

They started the project on Tuesday, March 24, and used the printing filament the schools had already purchased for classes.

The same day, TinkrLAB opened up a GoFundMe and they began to ask the community for monetary donations to support the purchase of filaments from Grand Rapids-based 3DxTech.

Above: Mask materials printed.

Since the project started, Palasty said community members have reached out and offered to print the masks from their own printers as well.

Now the project has over 100 printers printing N-95 masks.

In addition to the individual people working to print their own masks, other public schools and companies have reached out to Rabideau to help including Haslett, Okemos, Williamston, Mason, Gaylord, and Alpena.

“All of these printers are truly coming from one individual at a time which is really exciting and cool to see,” Rabideau said.

According to the GoFundMe page set up by Rabideau, each spool of filament costs $35 and makes 20 masks. All of the donations have been used to purchase the filament which is then distributed to each location in their “Print Force.”

The original fundraising goal was set on March 24 at $3,500. As of 8 a.m. on March 26, the goal was doubled to $7,000 which was surpassed by 12:30 p.m. that same day.

With all the support from the community, the team has extended their reach from Sparrow Hospital to include McLaren Hospital, the Lansing Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services. They are planning on printing as many masks as possible to reach as many medical professionals as possible.

To complete the masks before distribution, people are still needed to add the elastic to the back and to add in the filters. The filter can be replaced after use, and unlike most N-95 Masks, these 3D printed masks are reusable.

The team is still collecting donations at the GoFundMe page and looking for volunteers to print masks or to attach the elastic and filters. To volunteer contact melissa@tinkrlab.com or call 517-233-1524.

You may also be interested in this article: Local Volunteer Crafters Hard at Work Sewing Face Masks

Note: Marie Adele Grosso, a student reporter at East Lansing High School, produced this report for ELi. Kata Rothhorn and Cody Harrell served as editors.

ELi has a special section dedicated to our reporting on COVID-19 for East Lansing. See it here and sign up for ELi’s mailer to stay informed

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