MakerSpace staff at JoCo library 3D printing parts for face shields, sewing cloth masks

MakerSpace staff at Central Resource Library in Overland Park showed Fox-4 News progress on cloth masks and face shields last weekend. Photo courtesy Johnson County Library.

While Johnson County libraries are closed to the public, the Black & Veatch MakerSpace staff at Central Resource Library is busy sewing cloth masks and 3D printing parts for face shields.

Johnson County Library branch locations have been closed since March 15, which is about when MakerSpace staff began finding ways to support health care workers facing a shortage of personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The maker community — and librarians in general — we always just want to help,” said Brian Oertel, one of the facilitators heading up the project.

Located at 9875 W. 87th St. in Overland Park, the Black & Veatch MakerSpace at Central Resource Library is typically used by library patrons to learn crafting techniques like 3D printing, laser cutting, sewing, music and video production.

Library staff are sewing cloth masks at home. The masks will be given to local health care workers. Photo credit Kelly Sime.

Cloth mask production

Facilitators Angelica Sandoval and Nick Ward-Bopp are leading the cloth mask production effort. Library staff said they first learned about specific needs from Johnson County Emergency Management Services, then secured a donation of 150 yards of cotton fabric from TwirlConnect, a local apparel studio.

The pair and their manager assembled kits that include fabric, patterns, and thread and distributed them to library staff with at-home sewing capabilities. As of this week, staff across the library system has sewn about 1,000 masks.

Johnson County Developmental Supports staff will receive donated masks so they can wear them while conducting residential visits, library staff said.

“It’s not often we get to have that sort of direct community impact,” Ward-Bopp said. “I’m thankful to everyone who has stepped up to help.”

Face shield production

Meanwhile, Oertel and Thomas Mailloux are coordinating the production of 3D printed parts for face shields approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Supplies for making masks and shields—such as filament for 3D printing, acetate inserts, and elastic—are becoming scarce, however. That’s why facilitators are repurposing other materials like office supplies to make parts.

Three printers are on loan from Johnson County Community College for the effort. Photo courtesy Johnson County Library.

For instance, the clear plastic for face guards are being produced from plastic tabbed dividers. Moldable nose pieces for the cloth masks are being crafted with the help of pipe cleaners.

Oertel said they use a thermoplastic polyester called PET-G, which is durable against sanitation.

“The goal is to provide products that can lengthen the life of medical grade PPE or provide people some barrier to infection. If we can’t be physically near others, we can still offer something to the community,” Oertel said.

The headband that attaches to the acetate shield pieces is one part being printed.

As of this week, library staff have sewn more than 1,000 masks. Photo credit Joyce Mitchell.

Six 3D printers are running day and night at the MakerSpace.

Each machine can print two headbands at a time.

Because each headband print job takes seven hours, in order to maintain appropriate physical distancing makers rotate times to reset printers.

The MakerLab at Johnson County Community College has loaned three machines to the MakerSpace. As of this week, they’ve made more than 100 face shields and 3D printed parts for another 100.

Black & Veatch has also provided additional material and hardware to help the effort.