Girl Scout alum Stephanie Keefe and her partner, Isaac Budmen, have run a 3D printing business out of their home for three years, making and selling 3D printers for architectural, interior design, and other creative studios. But as soon as the coronavirus epidemic hit their Liverpool, New York, community—resulting in a shortage of face masks for medical workers—they shifted their work immediately, launching into action.
Using 16 of their 3D printers, which were packed and ready to sell, they made more than 600 plastic face shields in less than two weeks, donating them to a coronavirus testing clinic that opened in their city as well as to upstate New York hospitals.
The 3D printers are an ingenious solution in this time of crisis: there aren’t enough manufacturers in America making face masks and shields to meet current and coming needs. Keefe and her partner are part of a quickly evolving movement of large and small American businesses that are stepping up.
Keefe and Budmen aren’t stopping at using their 3D printers to help fill the shortage in their own community; they also built out a large facility at Syracuse Sound Stage, where they set up 3D printers and stations so that local volunteers could come in and create face shields. American High, a local film studio, partnered with them to help organize the volunteers, who show up 24/7.
“They come in, we take their temperature, they wash their hands, they put on masks and gloves, and the stations are 15 to 20 feet apart,” Keefe says of the elaborate safety procedures. “Our volunteers are now making 300 or so face shields each day. We also have volunteers driving the finished face shields to hospitals and first responders in the area.”
The duo has also shared their models, templates, and assembly instructions on their website, Budmen.com, so that others with 3D printers can help out too. In addition, they set up a form on their website where healthcare workers and first responders can request face shields, as well as a GoFundMe to support their work in Onondaga County.
In the first week and a half, they had 1,700 producers sign up to print 3D shields and 56,000 shield requests, including from 230 first responders from around the world.
“It has been a roller coaster,” Keefe says. “We have gotten thousands of emails, messages, and calls from all over the world from people willing to help. We have also gotten all of the emails and calls from hospitals who say they are in dire need of the face shields … and their urgency becomes our urgency.”
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