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Stevens Point Nonprofit’s 3D Printers Now Make Protective Gear For Health Workers

CREATE Portage County Converts Space Into Production Facility For Gear For Local Hospitals

Health workers pose in 3D-printed face shields
In this image shared on CREATE Portage County’s Facebook page, health workers at Ascension St. Michael’s Hospital in Stevens Point pose with face shields produced at CREATE’s 3D printing facility. Photo courtesy of CREATE Portage County.

A central Wisconsin nonprofit is using its fleet of 3D printers to supply local hospitals with personal protective equipment.

CREATE Portage County, which works with artists, entrepreneurs and creators in the Stevens Point area, has a 3D printing facility at its IDEA Center. In response to COVID-19, the site has converted that space into a production facility for face shields, made in partnership with central Wisconsin hospitals.

Greg Wright, executive director of CREATE, said the printers create plastic headbands that are fitted to a clear plastic sheet that can serve as protection for medical professionals.

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“They look almost like a welder’s mask that people wear into surgery to make sure … the people doing the frontline work stay protected,” Wright said in an appearance on WPR’s regional talk show “Route 51.”

Since they began on March 29, they’ve already produced several hundred face shields, and the project is growing.

On Friday, CREATE was receiving 10 new printers to add to the 13 already running, Wright said. And they recently partnered with Portage County manufacturers Worth Company and Gamber-Johnson, which are helping speed assembly of the masks by cutting the clear plastic used for the face shields.

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The masks are neither the N95 masks used by health care workers to filter out the great majority of germs in the air nor the cloth masks more commonly used by the public. But along with those masks and other supplies, they are serving as protective gear for some health care professionals. In late March, members of an Ascension surgery team shared a photo of themselves wearing the masks.

CREATE has gotten grant funding for the project from Marshfield Clinic and the Ascension St. Michael’s Foundation.

The organization has made plans for the locally designed equipment available online, and Wright said they’ve learned that they’re being used in the United Kingdom, Japan and Germany by others seeking to aid in combating the spread of COVID-19.

For now, though, Wright said the organization is focused on providing supplies for central Wisconsin providers. But if the project creates enough that there’s a surplus, he said he’s aware of websites that can connect the supply to others in need.

“We’re trying to produce as much as we can, because we know the need is high now, and we’re not sure how long the need will last,” Wright said.

To support CREATE Portage County’s 3D-printed personal protective equipment project, click here. For more information, visit createportagecounty.org.