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Regional group using 3-D printers to make PPE for hospitals

Regional group using 3-D printers to make PPE for hospitals

From the Coronavirus collection: March 22 through April 15 series

Monday afternoon, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and a national shortage of personal protective gear for health care workers, a group of community activists delivered its first batch of homemade face shields to Adirondack Health, the hospital in Saranac Lake that serves the northern Adirondacks.

The face shields have three parts: the clear shield that protects a health care worker’s face, the visor that holds the shield and elastic bands that hold the visor in place on the worker’s head.

The shield can be cut out and the bands repurposed for this use (even rubber bands can work), but the visors are being made on 3-D printers at Northwood School in Lake Placid and other educational institutions around the North Country.

The first batch will include at least 10 face shields, which are critical for protecting nurses, doctors and other health care workers from exposure to the virus. But the group has access to 12 printers and should be able to make 20 or 30 face shields a day, said Thomas Broderick, an administrator at Northwood, a prep school.

The group, which is donating the face shields, hopes to expand distribution to first responders in the North Country and hospitals outside its immediate region. Its members are reaching out to Glens Falls Hospital and CVPH in Plattsburgh.

Other citizen efforts to help with the shortage of protective equipment have run into trouble trying to meet hospital standards. Officials at Albany Medical Center Hospital, Glens Falls Hospital and St. Peter’s Hospital have all said they cannot accept handmade masks, according to a story published last week in the Albany Times Union.

But the North Country group has been collaborating with Adirondack Health officials on design of the face shields and expects them to be used. The hospital will be responsible for sterilizing the face shields after they’re delivered, Broderick said.

“It’s not a perfect medical device, but given the demands coming our way, it will give some reassurance to people on the front line,” he said.

The shields’ components are gathered and assembled at a building Northwood owns on Lake Placid’s Main Street, which it uses as a center for innovation. All Northwood students, who come from 25 countries and across the U.S., have either been sent home or places have been found for them to stay off-campus, Broderick said.

A group of quilters in the Saranac Lake area is assembling masks for Adirondack Health that health care workers can wear over a standard mask, such as an N95 mask, to prolong its life. The outer masks can be laundered.

Another group in the village is sewing masks for use outside a health care setting, such as for people who work in grocery stores or prisons, or for civilian use.

“We’re doing the best we can,” said Gail Brill, a leader of the community group. “We’re trying to be constructive and helpful. The antidote to depression is action — that’s what my dad used to say to me.”

Will Doolittle is projects editor at The Post-Star. He may be reached at and followed on his blog, I think not, and on Twitter at



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