PPE by the Book

MAKE Santa Fe launches coordinated medical equipment initiative

MAKE Santa Fe's leadership knew, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread and the Personal Protection Equipment shortage became widely known, that its makerspace could help make masks and other devices for the community.

"I think it was clear to many of us that MAKE could play a role," Board President Zane Fischer says. "We just had to get to the point where we could all put our heads together and say, 'do we want to do this' and then put the question out to MAKE's members; I think their general response was, 'What's taking us so long? We're ready."

What took a while, Fischer says, was a coordinated effort to ensure a standardized design process for the pieces MAKE and its members will be creating.

While the "highest level of importance," Fischer says, "is just putting our facility to use to help the community," MAKE also wanted to take the time to create protocols for the project. "We wanted something where we knew it was based on some amount of research," he said. "We wanted something people could reference and understand there was a consistency level there."

While MAKE is not constructing FDA-approved N95 masks, it is making items that conform to the standards and designs developed by the US Department of Health and Human Services National Institute of Health COVID Response Initiative and by leaders at MakerMaskCovid RangerCrafty AvengerHope&Industry and Sewing for Lives. These designs all were created with input from medical professionals.

Drawing on all the available research, Fischer says, "we were able to put something together that we think makes sense from a cost standpoint, from an available materials standpoint, from an easy-to-sew standpoint and easy to wash-and-sterilize standpoint."

That effort has now launched and consists of approximately 35 volunteers spread across three dedicated teams: a sewing team, a laser cutting team and a 3D printing team, which will be following specific guidelines to create cloth face masks and face shields.

The sewing team is working on cloth masks for the community "as one way of helping to ensure N95 masks continue to be as available as possible for healthcare workers," Fischer says.

The face-shields are entirely laser cut, he notes, and not 3D printed, as "the 3D component is difficult to sterilize and 3D printing takes a long time. The entirely laser cut face shield can be manufactured much more rapidly and every component on it can be completely wiped down and there's no porosity." Makers also are using the laser cutters to cut out the pattern for the sewn face masks, "which is cutting significant time and handwork off of the sewing process for people on that team."

As for the 3D printing process, Fischer notes the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the FDA and America Makes have formed what he characterizes as an "effective partnership" to receive, review and approve proposals of 3D printed equipment for specific medical uses.

One such design involves a portion of the face shield that covers the forehead, which means MAKE "can put our 3D printers to work." It also means assembling a face shield that incorporates "key" input from doctors and nurses "which is that you need to cover the top of the head; so you can't just have a straight shield where an aerosol can go up and over the shield and down into the face area."

Fischer says the project aims to create more than 3,000 masks and 1,000 face shields over the next few weeks. But just as creating equipment that follows safety design specs was key, so has been putting together safety protocols for those making at home, and those utilizing equipment at MAKE's space. While closed for regular activities, MAKE is now open for limited manufacturing of the PPE items, but with stringent rules regarding occupancy and other safety measures.

People can volunteer as makers, funders and in other ways through an online form. All the created equipment will be provided for free, and organizations in need of them also can apply online. MAKE is collaborating with the City of Santa Fe, Meow Wolf and regional healthcare providers to distribute resources and anticipates providing a significant amount of the PPE it produces directly to the city so its emergency response team can prioritize allocation. MAKE also is providing masks to Youthworks to support food and meal distribution across Santa Fe.

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