JACKSON COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX) - DIYers across the country are innovating to help ease the severe mask shortage for healthcare workers.
Many have turned to sewing cloth masks, but in Jackson County, the Fab Lab isn’t using needle and thread to make masks, but technology. It’s a futuristic solution to a here and now problem.
The Jackson County School District Fab Lab is 3D-printing these masks for those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. The reusable plastic masks use a small piece of a surgical mask as a filter that can be swapped out as needed.
“So with all of the hospitals saying they don’t have enough resources, if we can turn those resources and multiply them, then that’s a benefit for everyone," said Scott Beebe, Fab Lab manager.
After seeing stories of others across the country 3D-printing face masks, Angel Barnes reached out to Beebe to see if he could do the same.
“He was very willing to help. He said how many does she need, what does she need, tell me what materials," Barnes said.
By the next morning, Beebe had printed several prototypes of the mask. He also printed the main piece of what is to become a face shield.
Barnes delivered the masks to Coastal Family Health Pediatric Center, where the protective gear is desperately needed.
“Everybody needs them right now that’s taking care of patients, so we’re just trying to find innovative ways to get them," said pediatrician Wendy Williams.
Beebe said this is the perfect example of the Fab Lab’s STEM lessons coming to life.
“We’re telling them through many lessons that this is how you solve the world’s problems, but they never see it solve the world’s problem. This is the world’s problem, and this is a partial solution to the world’s problem," he said.
He hopes others with 3D-printers will jump on board to be part of that solution.
“Together we can solve this problem, right? Nobody can do it by themselves. I can’t print a thousand a week, but if a hundred people are out there printing two per day, you’re getting 200 a day. Now we can print a thousand a week," Beebe said.
Beebe said thanks to the Fab Lab’s sponsors like Chevron, the masks are being provided to hospitals for free. Hospitals interested in having masks 3D-printed can email the Fab Lab at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The design for the face masks and shields are available online to create a database to connect printers with hospitals that need supplies. The file can be requested by emailing email@example.com.