A central Wisconsin nonprofit is using its fleet of 3D printers to provide local hospitals with personal protective equipment.
CREATE Portage County, which works with artists, entrepreneurs and designers in the Stevens Point area, has a 3D printing facility in its IDEA Center. In response to COVID-19, the site converted this space into a face shield production facility, carried out in partnership with Wisconsin central hospitals.
Greg Wright, executive director of CREATE, said printers create plastic headbands that are attached to a sheet of clear plastic that can serve as protection for healthcare professionals.
“They almost look like a welder’s mask that people wear in surgery to make sure … people doing frontline work stay protected,” Wright said during an appearance on the talk show WPR regional “Route 51”.
Since they started on March 29, they have already produced several hundred face shields and the project is gaining momentum.
CREATE was receiving 10 new printers to add to the 13 already running on Friday, Wright said. And they recently teamed up with Portage County manufacturers Worth Company and Gamber-Johnson, who are helping to speed up mask assembly by cut the clear plastic used for face shields.
Masks are neither the N95 masks used by healthcare workers to filter the vast majority of germs in the air, nor the fabric masks more commonly used by the public. But along with these masks and other supplies, they serve as protective gear for some healthcare professionals. At the end of March, members of an Ascension surgery team shared a photo of themselves wearing the masks.
CREATE received a project grant from the Marshfield Clinic and Ascension St. Michael’s Foundation.
The organization made plans for locally designed equipment available online, and Wright said they learned they were being used in the UK, Japan and Germany by others seeking to help fight the spread of COVID-19.
For now, however, Wright said the organization is focused on providing supplies to suppliers in central Wisconsin. But if the project creates enough that there is a surplus, he said he is aware of websites that can connect supply to others in need.
âWe’re trying to produce as much as we can because we know the need is high now, and we don’t know how long the need will last,â Wright said.