BURLINGTON: Generator, a makerspace in Burlington’s South End, is prototyping personal protective equipment (PPE) in response to requests from the UVM Medical Center. Generator and some of their medical, educational, manufacturing, and engineering partners are working to immediately start producing equipment including face shields, N95 masks, and ventilators to protect medical professionals on the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Jake Blend, Generator’s Rapid Prototyping Shop Manager, is leading the effort to create plastic face shields. Blend is utilizing open source designs from a medical devices group that formed online and surged to over 30,000 members in recent months. Engineers, product designers, materials experts, and medical professionals around the world are editing, prototyping, and testing each other’s designs.
Blend is using Generator’s 3D printers to print the headbands, and Generator’s laser cutters to create the transparent plastic face shield.
“We’re working on acceptance with the hospital, which along with the supply chain is the biggest hurdle right now,” said Blend, “We have runners going up daily to [UVM Medical Center] and getting [the face shields] checked out and inspected.”
As of today, March 26, 2020, Blend is working on version 3 to solve 3D print time issues as well as supporting mass-distribution of his designs to empower those with home printers to support this relief effort.
“This is an extremely organized and collaborative effort,” said Generator Board President Dan Harvey. Board member, Michael Metz, and Operations Director, Elliott Katz, are managing the supply chain of plastics and materials necessary to scale production. Metz and fellow Generator board member, Doug Webster, are creating a state-wide inventory of laser cutters and 3D printers. Other Generator board members and staff have created committees to manage safety, sanitation, distribution, and funding for the initiative.
“The goal is to build a network and launch state-wide production once these designs are approved by medical professionals,” said Metz, who estimated that Generator alone could produce 1,000 face shields based on its own equipment and current material supply. He estimated it would take two weeks to get willing manufacturers around the state in production mode.
Generator is working in partnership with the University of Vermont, Beta Technologies, OVR Technologies, and other Vermont businesses and institutions to create other PPE including N95 masks and ventilators. Several Generator members are also sewing cloth masks for the general public to encourage the donation of N95 masks to medical institutions with greater need.
“Generator is working around the clock to connect the dots in our local, regional, and national community of makers, engineers, and material suppliers in order to meet the demands of this pandemic,” said Executive Director Meg Hammond, “While we had to close the doors to our members, students, and community partners and mentees, this effort allows us to put our tools and expertise to work to protect our community. As an incoming Director, I can’t express how impressed I am with our maker community. More than ever, I see the relevance of Generator.”
Generator is seeking funding to support the initiative from federal, state, and local resources, as well as private donors and foundations.