Johnson County library workers 3D printing face shields for emergency responders

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Johnson County libraries closed for business three weeks ago. Now inside the dark Central Resource Library, some staff continue important work… and go nearly unnoticed.

Behind closed doors, six 3D printers click away. They have been working every minute of the day for the last two weeks.

“We rely specifically on Maker’s Space staff,” Thomas Maillioux, a Black and Veatch Maker’s Space Facilitator at the Central Resource Library, said. “The four of us taking turns around the clock at least two to three times a day to keep the production going.”

The production here is precious: dozens of reusable face shields lined up and ready to be shipped to EMS workers.

“We print the masks and Johnson County EMS takes care of the disinfection and sensitization process and distributes them based on needs to the local healthcare workers,” Maillioux said.

The printers produce 12 masks every eight hours. More than 100 are ready to go. 

“This is the design that is being tested for clinical use by professionals and made available as part of a specific Covid-19 response effort,” Maillioux said.

When the plastic headbands come off the printers, staff attach visors and elastic straps. Facilitators inside the library’s Maker’s Space never dreamed they would be involved in such critical work, but even before the library closed, they were trying to figure out how to help fight the coronavirus.

“It’s what we need to do to support the community, and we do it.” 

And even as printing supplies start to run low, makers’s are figuring out how to print plastic splitters for ventilators, so the medical machines can help multiple patients breath a the same time.

While facilitators are making shields inside the Maker’s Space, additional library staff have sewn more than one thousand cloth masks for Johnson County Developmental Supports.

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