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3D printing community steps up to help with PPE shortage

People with 3D printers are doing their part to make protective equipment for health care workers.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon Governor Kate Brown says her biggest concern right now is the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for nurses and doctors.

“We're just getting stories about how they're being told to reuse everything or someone told me yesterday that someone, their boss in the hospital, told them to share their masks even though some of the nurses have tested positive and they're still having to come into work,” explained Shey Benner, who runs a cookie cutter business called SheyB Designs and decided to help with the shortage.

While supplies are low, there is no shortage of stories like the one Shey Benner heard. Washington State University Student Connor Weller heard a similar one.

“I found another person in some other group that was saying they’re in the Portland area and that his wife desperately needs personal protective equipment,” Weller explained. “Her group in the ICU doesn't have any kind of protective gear. They've had very minimal. A lot of the hospitals can't get the gear. They have the money, but they just can't get it because there's not enough out there.”

It is stories like those that sparked the idea of using 3D printers to make PPE.

“People right now are putting their lives at risk by not having the proper equipment and that's absolutely unacceptable and I'm going to do everything I can to try to help,” Weller said.

Weller runs a business using 3D printers. He started by making WSU Cookie Cutters.

Now, Weller is part of a group called The PNW - Open Source COVID-19 Medical Supplies. The group includes dozen of people just like Weller who are now working together to make face shields for hospitals all over the Pacific Northwest.

“I'm printing the head band and the bottom support bracket,” Weller explained. “They're pretty simple parts. This headband goes on like this and the support bracket goes down here and then there's a laser cut plastic piece that goes in between here that provides the actual protection.”

Husband and wife, Shey and Mike Benner, are doing the same from their home in Arizona. They are making hundreds of face shields they are sending to 20 different states, including Washington.

“Basically, it's this clear material and we're able to do this on our vinyl cutter or our laser depending on the material we use,” Mike Benner said.

If you want to help, Weller said they could use more people with 3D printers. You can also donate to either group to help cover the cost of the materials.

If you are in need of face shields you can also email SheyB Designs: faceshield@sheyb.com

“It’s been amazing to see everybody just come together,” Shey Benner said. “The amazing thing about this, the one silver lining is that we are all in this together.”

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