Kalamazoo "Makers" Helping During The Pandemic

Mar 26, 2020

Kzoo Makers member Mark Peters using a 3D printer
Credit Courtesy of Kzoo Makers

People are looking for ways to help during the COVID-19 crisis. That includes members of a group called the Kzoo Makers.

Some had hoped to use 3D printers to turn out N95 face masks. But the group's president, Al Holloway, says they ran into a problem.

"The process creates something that looks like the N95 mask but, because of the surface finish, it's very, very difficult to keep clean. And it's also a little bit of a struggle to make it fit properly." So, Holloway says some of the Kazoo Makers are now going in a new direction.

"What we found was that we can print headgear that supports these clear face masks, or face shields. And so, there's a lot of that going on and we're looking for a way to create the clear parts to snap onto the headgear."

Kzoo Makers work area
Credit Courtesy Kzoo Makers

But, there's a problem. Holloway says the laser cutter at the group's center needed to make some of the parts isn't easily available because of the state's stay at home order.

"So, we could perhaps one individual go in and operate the laser to cut these shields. But we can't bring groups together to assemble them and get them ready. So, it presents a little bit of a challenge. And we're looking at ways to have the parts dropped off and have one person process them and get them delivered to whoever needs them."

The face shields could be used by doctors and nurses at area hospitals.

Holloway says some Kzoo Makers members are turning to more traditional technologies: needles and sewing machines. He says they're making cloth face masks to fill a gap in supplies.

"They're not generally capable of filtering out something as small as a virus but, since the virus gets transmitted by sneezes and droplets and things of that nature, they do help with that."

Holloway says Kzoo Makers will offer the homemade masks to facilties that can use them.