3D printer enthusiasts in the suburbs unite to produce face shields and masks
Several weeks ago, Grayslake resident Daniel Busse decided to apply his 3D printing hobby to create personal protective equipment for health care workers and others.
To gauge the need, he put out a feeler on Facebook.
"I got more requests than I could handle," Busse, a systems engineer for Apple Inc., recalled Monday.
So, he asked for help. And what began with a few other 3D printer enthusiasts working individually has grown into a well-organized volunteer operation called Northern Illinois Makers COVID-19 PPE Support.
Since being created April 1, the roster of "makers" has grown to about 120 with defined roles and tasks.
Resources and supplies have been pooled to meet more than 80 requests so far. To date, 2,000 face shields have been made and delivered, with another 800 in progress and more planned.
"We haven't asked anybody to put in a request in a week," Busse said. "We're still trying to catch up."
Northern Illinois Makers also has received requests for more than 4,000 fabric masks. They're recruiting volunteers, particularly those who can sew masks.
"We've received requests for thousands of face shields and sewn masks for organizations all over northern Illinois and the demand is only getting greater," Busse said.
Elizabeth Van Orden, an Arlington Heights resident and project manager at W.W. Grainger Inc., is among the group's founding members. Using her expertise to connect the virtual dots, she has coordinated makers with those who secure materials and others to produce and deliver face shields from a National Institutes of Health model.
"We very quickly have established a supply and distribution chain," she said. "We have people working on all different areas."
That includes Lauren Jackson, who oversees prepping and packaging. Jackson, a Mundelein resident and Fremont Public Library trustee, owns a 3D printing business and creates home decor.
She is using her three 3D printers as well as two others from the library to make about 100 shields a day. Her husband, Scott, who programs robots for industrial manufacturing, is building a sixth 3D printer.
"I would say this is very much more like an actual business than a group of people making something that's needed," she said.
Gurnee resident Kenny Ulrich, who is busy with his day job involving digital media webcasting for corporate clients, also is on Northern Illinois Makers' leadership team.
"People in Gurnee came out of the woodwork with 3D printers," he said.
The beneficiaries have been those like Haily Sobon and co-workers in the radiology department at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital near Barington.
"I hope they know that it means a lot to the health care workers," she said.
Most 3D printed shields cost about $1 in material and about two hours to print and assemble, Busse said.