As the lack of medical supplies to battle COVID-19 becomes more apparent, some local residents and businesses are stepping up to produce face masks and shields.
A family in Cheshire, the Nichols, started 3D printing face shields at home. Fourteen-year-old Lucas Nichols had traveled to New Zealand with his robotics team at the Academy of Science and Innovation in New Britain, but events were canceled due to the pandemic.
“After I came home from New Zealand, I realized how serious the pandemic was and wanted to help in any way,” Lucas Nichols said. “I asked my mom to see if we could figure out how to get a 3D printer to make them.”
They used designs shared in the 3D printing community. The printer makes a round of mask frames in about two hours. Plastic film, padding and elastic are then attached.
On Monday, the family received 500 pounds of plastic film from Rowland Technologies in Wallingford, but are running low on filament to print with.
The family has also received donated supplies from Gordon Rubber and Packing in Derby, the Rotary Club of Cheshire, Riff Company Micro Drilling and Kingswood Oxford STEM, which lent the 3D printer.
The goal each week is to make 100 shields. Last week they made 35, which went to different places, including Trinity Health of New England and the Chesprocott Health District, which serves Cheshire and surrounding towns.
The health district thanked them on Facebook, saying “We got a great donation of face shields today. The masks were made on a 3D printer by a Cheshire youth! Thank you so much.”
Aline Nichols said her children are finding hope in this project, as well as learning.
“This gave them so much purpose. They're motivated; they are hopeful; they feel like doing something good,” she said.
Some local businesses have switched gears to also provide face masks and shields.
Sorrento Fine Woodwork in Wallingford started making plastic face shields about two weeks ago. The business, which usually makes cabinets, is focusing on the shields until the governor’s non-essential work ban is lifted.
Co-owner Mark Burlison said the production started when his wife, a nurse at Yale New Haven Hospital, said a shortage would be coming soon on her floor. They retooled equipment to make the shields.
The company is selling face shields as a way to keep staff employed and help with the crisis.
“This was just something to keep us afloat and help out at the same time,” Burlison said.
Burlison said the small team can produce about 5,000 mask shields in a week. Shields are available to any agencies or groups, as well as individuals that need them. This week, they sold shields to the Meriden Police Department, which thanked the company on Facebook.
Plantsville’s Sign Pro is also producing face shields, as well as other protective materials, like plastic barriers. Some face shields will be donated to first responders, others will be available for purchase by the general public.
“Knowing that some of the products we manufacture and produce are vital and essential to hospitals and state agencies, SIGN PRO IS OPEN with limited/key employees to take orders and produce them,” the company said. “Employees who are able to work remotely are doing so.”
Representatives from the company could not be reached before publication.
The Nichols are accepting filament donations (PLA or PETG 1.75mm) to be able to keep producing masks. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you can help.