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Companies, non-profits getting creative to help Ohio’s medical professionals stay safe

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Posted at 4:51 PM, Mar 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-30 20:25:50-04

BEACHWOOD, Ohio — While Ohio’s doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff put themselves at risk to treat patients with the coronavirus, private businesses and non-profits are getting creative to try to keep everyone safe.

MakerGear in Beachwood normally makes 3D printers that can print almost anything else for schools and businesses.

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MakerGear Founder Rick Pollack (far left) watches an employee (center) show a local nurse (right) how to assemble one of the face shields created at the company.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, MakerGear is printing one important component of a face shield to use with purchased and donated materials to make hundreds of face shields a day for local hospitals.

“I was prepared to pay for them,” said University Hospitals Nurse Robin Brunkala when she picked up about 20 masks from MakerGear. “That is really servicing us.”

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A table at MakerGear shows prototypes of masks and shields, part of it's effort to improve the design even while they are donating shields they've already made.

Brunkala showed up at about the same time as Lake Health officials, both picking up as many masks as MakerGear could pull together.

“People are asking for help,” said MakerGear Founder Rick Pollack.

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3D printers create the one piece of the face shield that hasn't been donated or bought to finish the shields.

That’s why he’s doing his best to find whatever elastic bands he can, even buying headbands at local stores for his employees to cut apart and use for the shields. He says he’s purchased enough plastic to create shields for the next few days. His handful of 3D printers are now working around the clock to create the plastic piece that holds the elastic and the plastic shield.

“The hard part is actually getting the plastic for the plastic shields,” said Pollack, because supplies are in such high demand.

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Pollack holds up a different type of mask that is made without any 3D printed parts, making it easier to disassemble, clean, and reuse.

While the first few masks are being made, MakerGear employees are figuring out how to make better shields and how to make them faster so that they can start making between 200 and 300 a day, as long as the supplies allow.

“When somebody calls me up and they’re desperate for this kind of stuff, and we’re making it here, it makes me sick to my stomach,” said Pollack.

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Disassembled masks wait for pick up in bags.

University Hospitals told News 5:
The health and well-being of our patients and caregivers is of the utmost importance. UH currently has adequate supplies of personal protective equipment for caregivers, and conservation guidelines in place based on CDC guidance. In addition, we are exploring innovative approaches to assure sufficient supplies in the future.

The non-profit world is getting involved too.

Random Acts of Kindness Everywhere, or RAKE, tries to spread good feelings wherever they’re needed. Over the past few days, the group realized it could help in a different way.

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RAKEnow is using string bags to create masks that can help block the spread of germs, but also inspire other people to do whatever they can to help.

“We actually use these bags normally to pack toiletries for those in need and the underprivileged,” said RAKE Founder Ricky Smith.

One of RAKE’s supporters realized the fabric for the bags is the same fabric that could be sewed to make non-medical masks.

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Founder Ricky Smith models one of the masks.

“She ripped them open, started sewing and we got the utensils we needed,” said Smith.

He says just with the bags they have right now, RAKE can make about 500 masks.

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Smith's tweet showing the mask and the sewing operation underway to make them.

“I have friends of mine in the airline industry who are on flights that are non-commercial, helping transport people in the medical field,” said Smith. “You know, we could send them to those guys.”

Smith says the masks wouldn’t be used for medical purposes, but he’s hoping their impact is deeper than just blocking germs.

“Hopefully it’ll motivate and inspire people to do something for somebody,” said Smith.

If you want to donate to the work that MakerGear is doing, click here.

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