Islanders ramp up efforts to provide PPE

3D printers churn out equipment; Corona Stompers make masks.


Updated 6 am

A number of makers are using their 3D printers, laser cutters, and other devices to create essential medical equipment for frontline workers, and members of the public are collecting personal protective equipment (PPE) to donate.

According to 3D printer pro Chuck Noonan, the group of makers have printed more than 70 face shields and have delivered them to the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. 

The group is currently working on a batch of another 100 shields to outfit Island emergency responders.

Apart from the face shields, the group has been working on a new initiative that, according to Noonan, is currently underway at the hospital.

Noonan said he is working with the hospital to test 3D printed ventilator splitters that could multiply the number of patients each ventilator is able to serve at one time.

According to Noonan, the hospital is testing these apparatuses on simulated lungs to determine their efficacy. 

“Face shields continue to be the most viable, cost effective, and decentralized option,” Noonan said. 

Noonan said the makers’ goal is to create around 400 face shields in total, and he is confident they will reach that goal. 

Once enough face shields are circulated on the Island, Noonan said he is going to focus his attention to only ventilator splitters. 

“This is an emergency technology, we hope that we don’t have to use these,” Noonan said, and continued to say that other communities have a great need for them.

“We are going to war, and we can’t ask our troops to jump out of a plane with no parachute. We need to help these heroes, we need to armor our soldiers up,” he said. 

In an email, Katrina Delgadillo, spokesman for Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, acknowledged the donations. “We’ve received some of these donations and appreciate the ingenuity of the 3D printers on the Island,” she wrote.

Delgadillo wrote that the hospital has received donations of nearly 600 N95 and surgical face masks as of Thursday. “We are so grateful to the Island painters, construction companies, and individuals who have reached out with offers to help and donate,” she wrote.

Kevin McGrath is one of those makers who is working with his 3D printer, and he said there is a huge national organization going on to rally 3D printer enthusiasts to create these important supplies, called 3D Printing for a Cause.

“People around the country are really coming together to support this initiative,” McGrath said. “My role is a worker bee. I am part of the production line here.”

McGrath said he and other makers at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School are looking into funding to buy more 3D printers and increase the rate of production for face shields and other equipment.

McGrath explained that the face shields the group are producing are made of heavy duty sheet protectors, and the frames are what are printed.

“It takes about an hour and a half to two hours to print each face shield, but it’s just like anything else, the more you do it, the more efficient the process becomes,” McGrath said.

He said he is tweaking the settings on his printer to make sure everything is just right.

“Everyone around the world who is involved with this project is sharing tips and tricks to make the printing process more efficient and effective,” McGrath said.

McGrath noted that, although printing the ventilator splitters is a longer process, he said the benefit they would serve to the hospital is immense.

“Imagine how much of an impact that would have in the medical world, being able to double or even triple the capacity of one ventilator is an incredible thing,” McGrath said.

Chris Connors, another maker involved with the initiative, said he doesn’t have a 3D printer at his home, but he does have a laser cutter that can cut as precisely as thousandths of an inch. 

He took the design file that is being shared by 3D printer owners and converted it over so that it can be inputted to his laser cutter.

“I modified the design slightly so that instead of working with a 3D object, I am working with a 2D object,” Connors said. He said the ideal material to create the face shields is 10 millimeter thick plastic sheeting, but he said that is incredibly hard to source as of now.

He said he recently purchased packages of page protectors that serve the purpose well.

Connors is the computer technology teacher at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS), and he said he is going to start working on ways to get students who are versed in 3D printing involved with the effort.

“I am going to need to write up some project proposals, but I have worked with students a lot and taught them how to create the designs and operate the printer,” Connors said. 

Another project Connors said he is considering is creating intubation tents for the hospital. 

“It would basically require sheet goods, and I could use my laser cutter to cut the holes for the arms, which is a more precise business,” Connors said. 

When a patient is placed on a ventilator, an endotracheal tube is inserted through the mouth and down into the airway. During this process, patients can cough or gag and expel droplets that could be contaminated into the air. The intubation tent ensures that the entire process is contained, and no one is exposed to infection. 

“We are always thinking of new ways to support our Island medical personnel,” Connors said.

Jesse Conroy has a 3D printer also, and he said he has printed out about 24 face shields.

He said the process itself isn’t difficult once all the proper settings are adjusted, but said the cost of time plus the cost of printer filament adds up over time.

“I am more than happy to help out, it’s a small amount of my money to help a lot of people in the community,” Conroy said.

Conroy is in the process of building a second printer to use for crafting supplies. He runs Courtesy Motors in Tisbury, and said that it’s pretty slow at the shop right now, so he has lots of extra time to work on printing.

“I am doing all I can do to preemptively help,” Conroy said. He said if he is ready to make ventilator splitters if he is asked.

“Hopefully if I made them they would never have to be used, but I would rather have this equipment available and be ready to provide it than to not have it at all,” Conroy said.

Making masks

Amy Upton has been working hard with her team, the Corona Stompers, a mask drive and safety information group, to organize the collection of medical equipment, and make homemade masks for members of the public.

“We have three donation spots: Shirley’s Hardware, Edgartown Hardware, and our newest is SBS,” Upton said. She said at SBS, there are two collection bins. One is for PPE, and the other is for homemade masks.

She said Island seamstresses and clothing makers are working together to make homemade masks for grocery store workers, lunch staff at Island schools, and others who are working hard to provide for the community.

“We need elastics, we need twist ties, we need materials,” Upton said. “Seamstresses are calling me from everywhere, from professionals, to grandmas who have lots of time to make masks. This has suddenly blown up.”

Upton said people can request support from the Corona Stompers, or can donate to benefit those in need.

She said the materials and equipment that has already been collected doesn’t hang around for long. “Everything is going immediately to where it is needed most,” Upton said.

Upton advocated that everyone in the community take as many precautionary measures as they can, to mitigate the spread of the virus.

“I wear a mask to protect you, and you wear a mask to protect me. What if you are an asymptomatic carrier? We have to start getting the word out there,” Upton said.

The Corona Stompers have also set up a GoFundMe where community members can donate funds to support the collection of N95 masks, as well as the production of homemade masks.

Updated to correct spelling of a name and to add comments from the hospital. – ed.